For most of the season, we’ve anointed Justin Verlander as the American League Cy Young award winner. For most of the second half of the season, he’s been anointed by some as the American League’s Most Valuable Player. And I’m finding it difficult to disagree with the notion.
Now, I was one of those people who thought that the MVP should be reserved for the position players, since the Cy Young is won only by the pitchers. But if you think about it, people associate the MVP award with sheer brilliance – whether it’s big numbers or finding that player who happens to be having a great year for that first place team.
The fact of the matter is, not only is there no clear cut monster playing the field in the American League, but I’ll assume that most of the common-folk in the baseball world forget about the “V” in MVP, and that’s where the award can’t possibly go to anyone else but Justin Verlander.
Verlander, who’s 24-5 after today’s win in Oakland, leads the league in wins, earned run average and strikeouts. Those would be Cy Young caliber numbers. Where he draws the MVP talk is in his victories after Tigers losses, and the fact that the Tigers are barely over .500 without him, which pretty much means that the Tigers aren’t a playoff team without him. Thus the “V” for Valuable. Sometimes it’s not just the numbers, it’s the intangibles around those numbers.
But where are those position players? Counting out Miguel Cabrera, who in his own right is having another well balanced, MVP type year himself, most in the baseball circles have talked Curtis Granderson, Adrian Gonzalez, and even Jose Bautista.
Bautista is probably the least likely of this short list to win. With the Toronto Blue Jays, who are constantly battling for their lives every season in that meat-grinder of a division (AL East), he is following up a year where he hit a pile of HRs (54 to be exact) by hitting another pile of HRs, except this year he’s actually hitting for average as opposed to his .260 average last season. Thus far this season he’s hit 42 HRs, has 100 RBIs, and is batting over .300. Not bad, except his team is in 4th place and has not been a factor in the AL East for most of the season.
Gonzalez has had a solid year in his first year in the AL after being traded to the Red Sox. He’s leading the league in hitting right now, but that’s a bit tenous: currently at .333, but has 2 players behind him batting .331 (Cabrera, Michael Young for Texas). His power numbers are good too, with 26 HRs, and 111 RBIs. However, he’s only batting .271 in the month of September, and only has 7 extra base hits in that stretch. Baseball writers have a tendency to remember more this month than in April or May.
As for Granderson, he’s had quite the year. Career high 40 HRs so far, with 113 RBIs. A true product of batting left-handed in Yankee Stadium, which helps his power numbers, except his batting average is only a meek .268 for the season. As for this month alone, he’s batting only .222 with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs, and only 5 extra base hits.
All in all for Granderson and Gonzalez, the numbers are decent to good. But value comes into question here. Gonzalez and the Red Sox seem to be losing their grip on the Wild Card, as Tampa Bay is continuing to close the gap on that race. Granderson for me is hurt because of the overall Yankee product that gets run out there on a daily basis. I have a feeling that not too much would change if Granderson wasn’t playing center field for the Yankees; they could almost throw anyone they wanted out there and still have nearly the same opportunities to win ballgames. Would they be as good without Curtis? Probably not… but:
The point is, none of those players have been more “valuable” to their team’s success this season as Justin Verlander. While yes, he’s only out there every fifth day, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, and that’s help give his baseball team a chance to win the game. And he does it in a myriad of dominant ways – trying to strike you out in the 8th inning of a tight ballgame with a 101 mph fastball, getting out of bases loaded – no out jams, and just keeping the opposing team off the board just enough for the Tigers to come out on top. Hopefully when the baseball writers do make their MVP votes this season, they remember what that middle letter truly stands for.