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Jim Leyland doesn’t think Justin Verlander should be the MVP

Aug 26, 2011, 1:31 PM EST

Justin Verlander AP

The “Justin Verlander should be given MVP consideration” train has been gaining steam this past week. Buster Oleny is shoveling the most coal, but I suppose he’ll be joined by others soon.

I don’t deny that he should be given consideration. The rules of the MVP award are clear in stating that pitchers should be considered. Says so right on the ballot the writers fill out.  And, of course, pitchers have been the MVP before even if there have been some times when they’ve been screwed out of the MVP award, though, as any fan of Pedro Martinez could tell you.

So no, I don’t think one should leave a pitcher off the MVP ballot.  But as the Verlander talk heats up, it’s worth noting that his manager does. Here’s Jim Leyland on a WXYT radio yesterday:

“I have a different viewpoint than that. I think there should be a Most Valuable Pitcher and Most Valuable Player. I don’t think a pitcher should be the Most Valuable Player. I’m not looking for arguments or controversy I just think when a guy goes out there 158 times or 155 times and has a big year, an MVP type year I don’t think the guy that goes out there 35 times should be named over that guy.

Interesting. I don’t agree with him, but interesting.

And for what it’s worth, consideration is one thing and giving a guy the award is something else entirely. I would consider Verlander. But though I have yet to sit down and really think about it yet this year I think Jose Bautista has to be the guy to win it because (a) I don’t believe that the quality of one’s teammates should have any bearing on whether they win an individual award; and (b) Jose Bautista has simply been a better, more productive baseball player than Verlander has been this year.

  1. Jonny 5 - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Umm, they already have an award for the Most valuable pitcher don’t they? So I agree anyway because…….

    There will always be an everyday player that deserves it more than a pitcher anyway. ALWAYS. That’s not saying that a pitcher can’t be the MVP of a given team either, because that can often times be the case. That’s how I see it anyway.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:42 PM

      Oh dear god no. Every year we all get into a giant argument regarding value vis a vis the MVP, I can’t imagine what would happen to the Cy if we changed it to Most Valuable Pitcher.

      As for the second comment, it’s possible. Even in Pedro’s best year (’00), Arod still had a better year [via bWAR].

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:49 PM

        Taking it a step further, what if we took Pedroia’s ’08 MVP award (5.2 bWAR) and matched it up against Pedro’s ’00 season (10.1 bWAR)

        DP – .326/.376/.493 – 17 HR, 83 RBI, 50 BB, 20 SB
        PM – 18-6, 217 IP, 284K, 32BB(!), 1.74 ERA (ERA+ of 291 is second highest ever in a single season)

        Would you give it to Pedro then?

      • Jonny 5 - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:49 PM

        Ha!! Yes.

        Yeah, And if the bWAR were tie or even leaning to the pitcher slightly, I’d still have heartburn voting for the pitcher myself. To keep up your game for 5 x more innings is definately worth something to me.

      • Jonny 5 - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:51 PM

        Copo, the next question. I would have voted for Mauer.

      • bigleagues - Aug 26, 2011 at 3:03 PM

        Jonny 5

        Then you didn’t much of Pedroia’s play that year did you?

      • Jonny 5 - Aug 26, 2011 at 3:54 PM

        Big league, Naww, I was making it all about the WAR man. In my own warped way I was pointing out the Flaw in using WAR only to evaluate a player’s level of skill. Pedroia, although having a lower WAR, was better than Mauer in 08. imo. Even though WAR contradicts that. “Different position” is probably the culprit.

  2. pestiesti - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    I think that Bautista should win, based on the season so far, but the pitchers-don’t-play-everyday argument is dumb. Pitchers may not pitch everyday, but they have a much bigger impact on the games they play in.

    Verlander has faced 803 batters this year. Bautista has had 518 plate appearances, plus 202 chances in the field. Who has really played more?

    • dcburden - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:00 PM

      I dunno – batters are expected to succeed ~30% of the time, pitchers ~70% of the time. It’s a lot easier for the guy with low expectations to exceed them in a manner that influences the outcome of the game.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:11 PM

      Win! I was just going to type this same thing…there are a lot of ways to measure a player’s contributions. # of games is not the end-all/be-all.

    • bigleagues - Aug 26, 2011 at 3:10 PM

      Pedroia and Ellsbury are not that far behind Bautista in WAR and Pedroia is the best pivot player in the game.

      The AL MVP is a long way from being narrowed down to Verlander vs Bautista.

      That said, if we are looking for the most “value” in a player being considered for this award – shouldn’t be evaluating his contributions relative to his teammates, as well as, candidates from other teams?

      This is why a POY must be added as a post-season award. One award for Pitchers only (Cy Young). One award for Hitters only (Player of the Year). And one award that recognizes the best ‘player’ (the MVP).

  3. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    “Jose Bautista has simply been a better, more productive baseball player than Verlander has been this year.” I tend to agree, but it makes me involuntarily cringe to read this b/c is it really THAT simple? I mean, Verlander has been un-stop-a-bull. He’s clearly the best pitcher in the entire league at the moment, and this is a pitcher year, so that is quite the compliment. Sure, Verly only goes out 35+ times, but he likely is the main factor by a mile as to why the team one almost every single one of those games thus far. I can’t discount him so easily, but again, you’re most likely right about this.

    I do agree with Leyland on this. It’s too much apples/oranges to mix pitcher and batters in the same award category. Just like I think suspensions should be handled differently between the two, I also believe the end of season awards should too.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:55 PM

      EDIT FUNCTION! one = won (you think I’d know this by now…)

      • halladaysbiceps - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:01 PM

        El Bravo,

        I gave you some assistance in the “Closer” thread with the Chapelle video you were trying to post. I gave you the directions on how to post a video on youtube here. Hope it helps you out.

        I hope what I posted doesn’t get me in trouble. If it does, I’m blaming you :)

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:19 PM

        Yep, saw that. Thanks. Don’t worry if it’s good for comedy central, it must be good for NBC right??

  4. bigleagues - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Leyland is on the right track, but I have long-championed MLB adding a “Player of the Year” award to the mix of post-season awards.

    The POY would exclusively be awarded to the positional player who had the best year, with NO bias factored in with regard to his team’s place in the Standings.

    The POY may or may not also be named MVP . . . just as a Pitcher may or may not also be named MVP.

    This really should be a no-brainer.

  5. djdvd - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Wait you mean Jose Bautista isn’t disqualified from the award because his team isn’t going to the playoffs? That’s absurd!

    Verlander’s having a great year, but it’s nowhere near the production to say like Pedro’s ’00 season which would make it realistic to put him in there.

  6. mianfr - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    I said this on Fangraphs and I’ll say it again here: a pitcher really needs to be transcendent and worlds away from the hitters to be an MVP winner.

    For instance, say, instead of Jose Bautista, the best hitter in the league this year were instead, I don’t know, Nick Swisher, Yankees RF. Swisher is a very good player, occasionally a great player, but if he were the best hitter in the league this year (and seriously, he’s a fine hitter, this isn’t an extreme “Jason Kendall” kind of example), then I’d have no problem giving Verlander the MVP.

    • bigleagues - Aug 26, 2011 at 3:00 PM

      Yeah but it shouldn’t be that way at all.

      There is a Cy Young Award given to the most deserving Pitcher in each league.

      And there is an MVP given to the most deserving Positional Player OR Pitcher.

      Where’s the Player of the Year award? Which would be awarded to the best positional player in each league?

      This argument is old and annoying when there is such an obvious fix.

  7. stoankold - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Craig – Isn’t that what the MOP is for? By your logic, Baustista’s outstanding contributions which willed his team to a 4th place finish are more valuable than similar (albeit slightly less) contributions from players on teams heading for or fighting for a spot in the playoffs. With the MOP award in existence, this just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Incidentally, this is what I love about baseball. These discussions. Yes, “value” is open to interpretation. No, everybody is not going to agree on what that definition is or should be. Imo, these types of discussions just don’t have the same flavor in other major sports.

  8. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    I’ve never liked the fact that the success of an MVP candidate’s team seems to have bearing on their chances of winning, while the Cy is based 100% on a pitcher’s performance (see: Felix Hernandez). If this trend continues and Bautista is not named MVP that’s really just a travesty. The only other guy you could even make a case for is Granderson, but Bautista is putting up better numbers

  9. aceshigh11 - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Here’s my question:

    Can a single exceptionally great starting pitcher carry an entire team on his back the way that an exceptionally great hitter who’s in the lineup almost every day?

    I don’t know…the criteria for MVP is too nebulous. I know that even Pujols has said in the past that a player doesn’t deserve to be an MVP unless his team is any lower than second or third (I think) in the division.

    For instance…would the Blue Jays be in last place as opposed to second-to-last place without Bautista? I doubt it…the Orioles are that damned bad. So what value has Bautista provided to his team?

    From an individual numbers perspective, Bautista is a monster, but that’s NOT what the MVP is for.

    • thefalcon123 - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:29 PM

      Yeah, let’s revoke Cal Ripken’s 1991 MVP award cause his team sucked around him! That’s logical!

      • aceshigh11 - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:47 PM

        Calm the hell down.

        I didn’t say that…I was simply going by the official definition of what the MVP means.

        Can we just have a discussion without people going ballistic?

  10. thefalcon123 - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I don’t think pitchers should get the MVP either, but not for Leyland’s reasons. Mine is simple…I’m too lazy to compare pitchers to hitters. For me, Mattingly is the 1986 MVP not because Clemens probably didn’t deserve it, but I lack the mental capacity to judge 24-4 2.48 ERA vs .354/.394/.573. So, that’s really more of my own problem.

    Leyland’s argument that hitters should win because they go out there 158 times vs 35 times is pretty silly. It’s true, but Verlander has faced 803 batters!

    • aceshigh11 - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:56 PM

      Good point, but the sabermetricians have created some advanced stats than normalize numbers between hitters and pitchers.

      How valuable these statistics are is, of course, being continually debated. It is a tool available, though.

  11. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Verlander and his team only faced Bautista’s team once this year, and Verlander clearly won that matchup (no hitter), but Bautista did not play.

    Would a team with a rotation of Verlander x 5 beat a team with a lineup of Bautista x 9 over the course of a season? Are those the right multiples?

    Lifetime, Bautista is 3/10 with 2 doubles and a homer, and 2K’s against Verlander.

    DEATHMATCH!

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 26, 2011 at 3:14 PM

      If only I could watch this game in a vacuum. I mean c’mon that’d the most amazing game ever played!

  12. Detroit Michael - Aug 26, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    Jim Leyland is wrong as the MVP award is currently designed. The ballot instructions state “Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, and that includes pitchers and designated hitters.”

    If a voter year after year does not list any pitcher among the top 10 most valuable players in the league when half of the roster slots are occupied by pitchers these days, then I question whether the voter is using his/her own criteria instead of following the ballot instructions. I really dislike how some voters won’t consider any pitchers and some do, so that the balloting is a real mish-mash right now.

    Whether Justin Verlander actually is the 2011 AL MVP is a different question of course. Much of the season remains to be played. I’d lean toward Jose Bautista if the season ended today too.

  13. iamthedoublestandard - Aug 26, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Bautista?? NO mention of Granderson at all? Quite shocked.

  14. Glenn - Aug 26, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Logically, the Most Valuable Player Award should be slanted toward the guy on the poorer team if we are to take it literally. A guy like Bautista is more valuable to his team (at least a bigger part of its value) than anyone on the Yankees or Red Sox are to their team.

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