Verlander for MVP????


I love to read the guys at RSBS. Whether it’s Jeff’s new conversion to the misguided principles of every man, women and child for themselves Libertarianism, or Allen’s creative way of trying to solve America’s debt problems, they always have something interesting or provocative to say.


Today they have a new post about Justin Verlander. Read it here……… go ahead, I’ll wait……….


Normally I would just post a comment on their page and leave it at that, but I realized that just a couple of sentences weren’t going to cut it.


The crux of the agreement revolves around “value”. And then taking one step further by asking the question, Where would the Tigers be without Verlander?


That of course is impossible to determine with any high degree of certainty. But we can use some known stats to at least help extrapolate an answer.


So let’s start with Verlander. He is 22-5 with a 2.44 era.  He leads the AL in Wins, ERA, Inn Pitched and Strike Outs. His team is 23-8 in games he starts. He clearly is the front runner for the AL Cy Young.


But what would Detroit have done if someone else started those 31 games? Well first let’s look at the Tigers record in the other 116 games Verlander didn’t pitch. They are 62-54, that’s a .534 winning percentage.  The other 3 starters (Scherzer/Penny/Porcello) for Detroit with more than 14 starts are 38-26. That’s a .593 winning percentage, and that is being done with a combined 4.75 era.  Just applying the .534 team winning percentage to Verlander’s 31 starts results in a 16-15 record. Not great, but only 7 less wins than what Verlander produced in his starts.


Now I’m not going to minimize 7 wins, but the Detroit Tigers currently lead the AL Central by 11.5 games. Without those wins they would still be 4.5 up. And one of the key arguments for Verlander (and against guys like Jose Bautista) as the most valuable player is that without them, their team wouldn’t be in or battling for first place. And then conversely by inference, that the value of a great offensive performance on a losing team only provides personal glory and somehow doesn’t affect the team to produce more wins than they wouldn’t already have produced on their own just because they are at the bottom of the standings.


This is not to say that Verlander doesn’t deserve some consideration for the MVP, clearly he does. But I also think it’s fair to say that if he was pitching for the Mariners he would presumably have put up the same numbers and would not be in consideration for the MVP but would still be a lock to get the CY Award.


But in general, I’m just not sure that I can give an MVP award to a starting pitcher on a first place club that may have still been in first without him. And sure, his impact to the team is greater than just his stats. All his extra K’s may save the team from fielding errors. All his extra innings pitched may hide some flaws in the bullpen.  But still, he’s only going to pitch in 34 games this year.


If you really want to look at a dominate pitching performance that has had arguably a bigger impact on a first place team, you don’t have to go any further than Detroit’s own bullpen.


Jose Valverde has pitched in 62 games and is 43 out of 43 in save chances. No other pitcher that has more than 5 saves this year is without one blown chance. Including his 2 wins, Valverde has had a hand in more than half of Detroit’s victories.


Let’s put it this way, Valverde wouldn’t be the first Detroit closer to win the league MVP.





  1. Red State Blue State

    I’m with you on this one. I think the problem is semantics. What does “most valuable” mean? They should change it so the pitchers have their award and the position players have their own award. Call it the Babe Ruth Award or the Willie Mays Award. Just change it so we don’t have all these confusing arguments.

  2. This is a very simple game...

    I do think that, yes, a starting pitcher can have such a significant impact their team as to be the MVP. Beyond the specific statistics of each starts and the side benefits those starts give the infield and the bullpen, etc, there’s the fact that a dominant picher ends losing streaks and starts winning streaks and the swagger a truly dominant pitcher imbues in the rest of the team that does affect how they play in all games. In this case, however, there is Valverde’s contribution as well as a few key bats in the lineup and one could just as easily argue that without those contributions, the Tigers wouldn’t be winning the division either.
    — Kristen

  3. Randy Stern

    I do not agree that Verlander should be fast tracked as the AL’s MVP. Nor would I agree that Valverde is to be MVP, either. If the BBWAA plays God in MVP selection, of course, we can expect them to vote for the popular choice…whomever that is. I cannot think of any standout AL player who deserves strong MVP consideration on the top of my head right now.

    BTW, if you’re at today’s (Sunday, 9/18) game at Wrigley, let me know. I’m there (219/20/111 – seat location).

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