Sometime tomorrow afternoon, Justin Verlander will learn if he’s the American League’s Most Valuable Player. He’ll either get a phone call telling him he’s the first pitcher to win baseball’s top individual award since 1992, or 2 o’clock will come and go with no call (and, thus, no MVP).
Verlander, coming off his seventh — and finest — season in the majors, clearly wants to add the MVP to his mantle, to sit right alongside the Cy Young he took home last week.
During his teleconference in accepting the Cy Young, he said as much.
And, in doing so, he also made a pretty convincing case for why a pitcher should be strongly considered.
“We are players,” Verlander said. “There are a couple different arguments I brought up. One is the tremendous effect we have on the day of our game. If we have a bad game, 99 percent of the time we’re gonna lose. If we have a really good day, 85 to 90 percent of the time we’re going to win. With a position player, they can have a great day and hit three home runs, and we could lose, 3-5. I’m just trying to point out how important we are.”
Verlander, 28, also pointed out the bullpen effect, which too often gets overlooked.
With the dominant stuff he showcased pretty much all year, Verlander essentially had an impact on the bullpen for three days at a time. Tigers manager Jim Leyland could be much more liberal in going to his relievers the day before Verlander pitched because odds were good he would go deep into the game the following day; the day of his game, Verlander rarely needed a whole lot of relief help; and the day after his game, the bullpen typically was well-rested and rarin’ to go.
The American League MVP race is among the most thrilling award competitions in recent memory. As many as nine players could get a first-place vote, with Verlander, Toronto’s Jose Bautista, Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and New York’s Curtis Granderson the top contenders.
My hunch, 20 hours before we all know Verlander’s fate: He wins — and will do so by receiving seven or eight first-place votes, while the three other elite candidates split the remaining votes.