The Downside of the Win Streak?

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The Tigers, as I am sure you are aware by now, are on a historic streak.  They have won eleventy billion games in a row (actually 12).  It seems like everything has gone right for the Tigers over the past two weeks.  However, there could be a downside to all of this success.  Some people feel the Tigers are peaking too early.  I disagree with that particular notion though.  I don’t have any stats to back up my thoughts – but why would an August win streak of 12 games be great while a September win streak be a bad thing?  No, I think there is a less obvious downside to the win streak and it does not affect the team, rather its best player…Justin Verlander.

While many feel his path to the Cy Young is quite safe, the AL MVP Award is another matter.

In August, we first started hearing the murmurs that a pitcher – gasp – could be considered in the MVP race.  Verlander at that point was the premier SP on a team that was keeping two teams (Chicago and Cleveland) at bay.  The Tigers were a flawed team, a team that many thought would make the playoffs but would then roll over for the powers of the AL East.  In other words, they would play the role of the Minnesota Twins this year.  You could count on the Tigers winning when Verlander started and probably when Doug Fister and Max Scherzer started.  The offense would be counted on when Rick Porcello and Brad Penny were on the mound though.  The Tigers, in August, were an above average team with a superstar pitcher and Hall of Fame caliber hitter (Miguel Cabrera)…at least to those outside of Detroit.

However, this win streak has changed things.  Now the national writers are talking about Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila.  They are talking about Fister and Jose Valverde.  This is great for the Tigers and their fans, but not for Verlander.  Those of us who follow the Tigers know this is a team comprised of a lot of good players.  And this is the crux of the argument for me.  I think for a pitcher to win the MVP these days, he needs to be head and shoulders above not only his peers (check) but also above his teammates and competitors (TBD).

No longer is Verlander an amazing pitcher who has kept his team’s postseason hopes alive single handedly.  With the Tigers suddenly turning it on they are leaving every AL Central team in the dust and locking up their division with weeks to play.  This could hurt him in the eyes of the voters.  If the Red Sox end up winning the Wild Card, voters may look at Adrian Gonzalez or Jacoby Ellsbury, players who have excelled when the rest of their team has tanked rather than a pitcher for a team who cruised to a title.

Of course, there are still a lot of games left to be played and with Verlander on the mound, you never know what could happen.  He could throw another no-hitter.  He could strike out 20 guys.  He could put together an 27 IP+ not allowing a run.  If he was to do something extraordinary (even more extraordinary than his current extraordinaryness) then I think he could lock up the AL MVP.  However, outside of that, with the Tigers playing so well and his perceived role going from “savior” to simply just “stud”, it is doubtful that he follows in the footsteps of Willie Hernandez.

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