First off congratulations to Justin Verlander for winning the AL MVP. After an utterly dominating season, Verlander is the first player since Sandy Koufax to win the pitching triple crown (Wins, ERA, Strikeouts), the Cy Young and the MVP Award. He actually won the award in surprisingly easy fashion, beating out Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox by 38 points.
As part of the media tour with winning the award, Justin Verlander was interviewed on the Dan Patrick show today. To paraphrase the conversation (which can be found here) when asked who deserved the award, Verlander chose himself. He rebuffed the “pitchers aren’t as valuable” claim by adding his own defense to his selection. To paraphrase Verlander, the starting pitcher has such a massive effect on a game that when he’s off, and pitching terribly, 95% of the time his team is going to lose. Conversely, if he’s pitching well, his team’s odds of winning rise dramatically. No position player can affect a game in nearly that manner. If Miguel Cabrera goes hitless the Tigers can win, in fact in 2011 they were 17 and 15 when Cabrera was hitless.
When you couple this thinking, with the idea that by pitching 7-8 innings in his starts, he directly affects the ability to overuse the bullpen the day before and day after his starts, and that by pitching so many innings he technically is involved in more plate appearances that any position player, you can without a doubt make an argument that a starting pitcher is just as, if not more important to a team’s success than a position player.
Luckily the majority of the voters Monday agreed with Verlander’s philosophy, or overlooked their own voting prejudices for one dominating season.