UPDATE: Verlander wins AL MVP -- And I Had No Idea Who Should Have Won
Justin Verlander of the Tigers overcame the stigma facing pitchers and won the AL MVP today. The righty received 13 of the 28 first place votes. Jacoby Ellsbury finished second, Jose Bautista third and Curtis Granderson fourth.
In other news, Michael Young got a first place vote. Nurse on that for a second. He may well not have been his team's best, or second-best player this year. Oh well.
This afternoon the American League MVP award will be handed out, and frankly, I have no idea who will win and I'm really having trouble figure out who should win.
The way I see it, there are six candidates: Detroit ace Justin Verlander, his first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Toronto outfielder/third baseman Jose Bautista, Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson and his teammate Robinson Cano.
I can see reasons why each would, and would not win. Let's take a look:
Verlander: Stats: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 strikeouts, 0.92 WHIP
Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball this season. Period. He gave the Tigers everything they could ask of him every five days. He went deep into games, struck out a lot of hitters, threw a no hitter and ultimately led his team to the ALCS. However, he was on the field only once every five days--and some MVP voters will inevitably punish him for that. It takes a special season for a pitcher to win the MVP, was Verlander's special enough?
Cabrera: Stats: .334 batting average, 30 home runs, 105 RBI, 111 runs scored
In terms of changing a game and game plan for another team, perhaps nobody does so more than Cabrera. Teams invariably pitch around him and he is arguably the most intimidating hitter in the league. His numbers are impressive as always, and he was the best offensive player on a playoff team. However, this season wasn't considerably better than some of his previous seasons, and Cabrera could be hurt by the fact that these sorts of years are what people have come to expect from him.
Ellsbury: Stats: .321 batting average, 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 119 runs scored, 39 stolen bases
This way well be the most impressive of them all. Ellsbury hit more homers than Cabrera while still stealing almost 40 bases and playing gold glove-caliber center field. However, you might recall that the Red Sox kind of fell apart at the end of the season and players whose teams miss the playoff are often penalized in the MVP vote. This could magnified in Ellsbury's case, given how the team collapsed.
Bautista: Stats: .302 batting average, 43 home runs, 103 RBI, 111 runs
A surprise to many, Bautista repeated his impressive 2010 campaign with a great 2011. He led the league in homers, despite having basically no protection in the Blue Jays' lineup. Trouble for Bautista is that his team finished in fourth place in the AL East, and players on fourth place teams seldom win MVP awards.
Granderson: Stats: .262 batting average, 41 home runs, 119 RBI, 136 runs, 25 stolen bases
Granderson came into his own in his second year as a Yankee. He created more runs than anyone in baseball and trailed only Bautista in homers. Trouble with Granderson is his batting average. While it's commonly accepted these days that batting average is an overrated stat (despite hitting 40 points worse than his teammate Cano, Granderson still had a higher on-base percentage and OPS), I still expect some voters to punish him for hitting in the .260s.
Cano: Stats: .302 batting average, 28 home runs, 118 RBI, 104 runs.
If this was an award for the prettiest swing in baseball, Cano would likely be the winner. That said, like Cabrera these sorts of seasons are what fans have come to expect from Cano every year. In fact, early in the season some believed Cano was having a disappointing year. And now he is an MVP candidate. While he was likely the most feared hitter in the Yankees' lineup, I just can't see him winning the award.
So the verdict is, I'm at a loss. Had the Red Sox made the playoffs, despite being a Yankee fan, I think Ellsbury would be the choice. With their collapse I'm not sure. Maybe Granderson, maybe Cabrera. Help me out. What do y'all think?