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Holden On: The American League MVP

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The Major League Baseball season is reaching its final leg, and with it comes a flurry of debate over the end of season awards. The central issue has been whether Justin Verlander, Detroit’s dominating ace, should earn votes for the AL MVP. Some debate that pitchers have their own award, and should have no place on the MVP ballot. Others believe that pitchers have less importance seeing as they only play around a fifth of their team’s games. This attitude has been reflected throughout the history of the award as only 23 pitchers have ever won, since the award’s inception in 1931. Justin Verlander deserves to be number 24.

Justin Verlander has earned the award, not only for his incredible contributions to his organization, but also for his consistent excellence. In his sixth full season, Verlander has easily been the best pitcher in all of baseball, by both traditional and sabermetric stats. He leads the league in wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts, sating the old-school fans. In most of those categories, he has a substantial lead that should be easily sustainable through the last month of the season. He also leads the league in some key sabermetric stats: component ERA, quality starts, average game score and WHIP. Four of his five losses have been tough losses, games in which Verlander produced a quality start (6+ innings, 3 or fewer earned runs), but the offense failed to produce around him. In short, Verlander has been the most dominant pitcher in the league no matter which way you look at him.

In fact, Verlander is having one of the best historical seasons for a starting pitcher. In the live-ball era, his single season WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is 12th best. With him on that list are some very recognizable names, such as Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, as well as 3 members of the MLB Hall of Fame. Of those 12, 2 won the MVP award, Sandy Koufax in 1963 and Bob Gibson in 1968. Despite being in such illustrious company, that alone does not earn Verlander the MVP, but his contributions to his team do.

The Detroit Tigers are Justin Verlander’s team. During Verlander’s starts, the Tigers are 24-8, without him they are a mere 63-54. He could be the sole reason they are leading their division by 13 games, as the rest of the pitching staff has been far from impressive. The 2 to 5 starters (excluding newcomer Doug Fister) have a combined 4.69 ERA. Now, you may be thinking, but what about Miguel Cabrera, he’s an everyday player, not some pitcher who plays once ever 5 games. The truth is Verlander has had a larger share in innings pitched (18%) than Cabrera has had in at bats (10.5%). The debate that pitchers have less value because they play less is now meaningless.

Now not only does Justin Verlander have statistical evidence, he has the defining moment to seal it. Every MVP has that one moment that defines their season, and for Verlander it was his incredible no hitter against the Blue Jays. Thus, Verlander has all the factors. He has statistical dominance over others at his position. He is having one of the single greatest pitching seasons of all time. He provides more value to his team than any other player. His team is playoff bound with him, and is barely over .500 with him. He even has that single moment of pristine greatness. Justin Verlander should be American League MVP.

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Holden On: The American League MVP