One down, one to go.
This past season, Justin Verlander sent down a lot of batters in order, now he hopes to win impressive awards in the same fashion. Today, he was named the American League Cy Young Award winner, in one of the most anti-climactic election results since the Communist elections in the old Soviet Union.
Next week the results of the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting will be announced, on November 21. One player has made sure the debate and anticipation about the award has been at a fever pitch this off-season.
That player is Tigers ace Verlander, who had a season for the ages in 2011.
Whether or not he’ll be named MVP remains to be seen, but he should win it, and here’s why:
1. Dominating Tiger rivals
In 2011, Verlander was 14-1 against Detroit’s Central Division rivals (White Sox, Indians, Royals, and Twins). The Twins had a down year, but the Sox and Tribe were in the hunt much of the way, and Verlander dominated them. On June 14, in a much anticipated game against the then division-leading Indians in Detroit, Verlander held Cleveland hitless into the eighth inning. In July, Verlander beat the Royals, Twins, and White Sox. In August, he defeated the Royals, Indians, and Twins (twice). With the pennant race heating up, in September, he vanquished the Sox, Tribe, and Sox again, as Detroit sealed the division crown. Any time Central opponents felt they could inch up on the Tigers, Verlander was there to shut them down.
2. Acting as the stopper
Following a Tiger loss, Verlander was 16-3. The 16 wins were the most for a pitcher after his team lost, since Steve Carlton had 19 way back in 1973. Verlander didn’t lose a game for nearly three months during one stretch, and he had winning streaks of nine and 10-games. More so than a position player, a starting pitcher who’s an automatic win is a frightening weapon for a team. In 2011, Tiger opponents had that look of defeat before they even took the field against Verlander.
3. No-hit stuff
On May 7, Verlander tossed his second no-hitter, a gem that was very nearly a perfect game. One walk – a close pitch that was the last in a 12-pitch sequence – kept him from a perfect game. In his next start he attempted to go Johnny VanderMeer on the Royals, going 5 2/3 innings before surrendering a hit. He ended up tossing an eight-inning, two-hitter. Later, on June 14, in the game mentioned above against the Indians, he took a no-no into the eighth. On July 31, in a matchup of aces with Angel hurler Jared Weaver, Verlander took a no-hitter into the eighth before settling for a eight-inning one-hitter. In all, JV pitched six games where he went at least seven innings and allowed three hits or less. Not since Nolan Ryan’s prime has a pitcher had no-hit stuff so often.
4. Being an innings-eater
In 2011, Verlander became the first pitcher at least six innings in every start in 40 years. When he pitched. manager Jim Leyland could rest his bullpen. He made it into the eighth in 19 of his 34 starts, tossing at least 100 pitches every time he took the ball. The value to his team due to his durability can’t be overstated enough in today’s game, where 3-4 relievers are used in almost every game.
5. The trickle-down effect
This hasn’t been talked about much, but Verlander’s success in 2011 rubbed off on other member’s of the Tiger staff. This was particularly noticeable in September when Detroit reeled off 12 straight wins to run away with the division title. teammate Doug Fister especially seemed to feed off JV’s success, as he followed him in the rotation. Similarly, other players seemed to step their game up when Verlander was on the hill, making defensive plays, driving in runs, and performing out of the pen when necessary.