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With a month to go in the regular season and most of the playoff races nearly wrapped up, some focus is starting to turn to the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards. And this year’s big debate seems ready to rekindle the age-old argument: Should a pitcher be considered for the MVP award?While no pitcher has won the MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992, this year’s debate centres around the candidacy of Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander who won his 20th game over the weekend. He also leads the league with 215.2 innings pitched and 218 strikeouts, and is second in ERA (2.38).
What is interesting about the Verlander-for-MVP argument, is that it would seem that the only thing on his resume that really sets him apart over other great pitchers in recent years is his win total and his outside shot at becoming the first pitcher since Bob Welch in 1990 to win 25 games in a season. And yet, it was just last year that voters eschewed wins when Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young with a 13-12 record.
If we look at Wins Above Replacement (WAR; right), a stat that measures the overall value of every player to his team, regardless of position, we see that Verlander is far from being the AL’s most valuable (pitchers are shaded in red).
Verlander has indeed been great this season, as he has been worth 6.2 Wins to the Tigers. But even if you think pitchers should be considered for the MVP award, there are just better candidates this season, such as Dustin Pedroia.
In fact, using this measure, Roy Halladay has a much better claim to the National League MVP award. His 6.9 WAR, not only shows that Halladay has been more valuable than Verlander this season, he also leads the NL (Joey Votto is second with 6.6 WAR).
Also, if the voters can once again minimize the importance of wins when casting their votes, they should see that Verlander isn’t even a lock for the AL Cy Young award. Jered Weaver, who leads the AL with a 2.28 ERA, and CC Sabathia who leads the AL with a 2.81 FIP*, both have resumes as impressive as the one belonging to Verlander.
Until Major League Baseball changes the rules there is nothing wrong with considering a pitcher for the MVP award. But that debate should be for another time, as Verlander’s resume just isn’t good enough.