Justin Verlander continued his late season run of dominance by recording his 12th consecutive victory in Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over the Athletics. During that span, the Tigers’ right hander has compiled half of his league leading 24 victories, the highest total by an American League pitcher since Bob Welch won 27 games in 1990.
Even though more advanced metrics place Verlander in close proximity to other Cy Young contenders like CC Sabathia, Dan Haren and Jered Weaver, his inflated win total has all but assured he’ll go home with that award. What’s more, if the recent rumblings by voting members of the BBWAA are any indication, Verlander may need room on his mantle for more than just one piece of hardware.
Most Wins in a Single Season, Since 1990
One often repeated fact used to advocate Verlander’s MVP candidacy is the Tigers’ 25-8 record in games that he pitches. According to the theory, the team’s comparative winning percentage (.758 with him versus .533 without) illustrates just how valuable Verlander has been to the Tigers’ division title, which makes him a leading choice for MVP. Of course, there are two obvious flaws in that logic. Obviously, without a contribution from the eight men behind him, Verlander would not have been able to compile such a high win total. Although Verlander has been the common denominator in the 33 games he has started, players like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila and Jose Valverde also deserve a share of the credit for those victories. Secondly, even with a .533 winning percentage, the Tigers would lead the Central Division by three or four games. If the end justifies the means, then it could be argued that the Tigers haven’t needed Verlander as much as some have suggested.
Best and Worst Team Records in a Pitcher’s Games Started
|Vance Worley||16||4||0.800||Ubaldo Jimenez||8||13||0.381|
|Roy Halladay||23||7||0.767||Mat Latos||11||18||0.379|
|Justin Verlander||25||8||0.758||Tyler Chatwood||9||15||0.375|
|Ian Kennedy||23||8||0.742||Brett Myers||11||20||0.355|
|Zack Greinke||19||7||0.731||Livan Hernandez||10||19||0.345|
|Ivan Nova||18||7||0.720||Jeff Francis||10||21||0.323|
|Josh Beckett||20||8||0.714||Danny Duffy||6||14||0.300|
|Cliff Lee||21||9||0.700||Paul Maholm||7||19||0.269|
|Jair Jurrjens||16||7||0.696||Dustin Moseley||5||15||0.250|
|Jered Weaver||22||10||0.688||J.A. Happ||6||20||0.231|
Note: Minimum 20 starts.
The exaggerated claims about Verlander’s season do little to diminish the excellence he has exhibited. However, relying on purely team-based statistics can be awfully misleading. For example, some have suggested that having to use Andrew Miller as a starter has contributed to Boston’s September swoon, but that argument ignores the fact that the Red Sox are 9-3 in games he has started. Similarly, the Tigers enjoy winning percentages of .655 and .613 in games started by Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer despite their having an ERA+ of 84 and 92, respectively. Apparently, the Tigers have still been able to win ball games even when they don’t receive stellar starting pitching.
Justin Verlander has had an incredible season and, all things considered, is probably the most deserving candidate for the Cy Young award. Before anointing him an MVP, however, those with a vote would be wise to take a step back from his impressive win total and see what lies beneath it. Maybe Verlander is the Cy Young and MVP, but if so, a vote shouldn’t be based on how well the team has played when he has been on the mound. The 2011 Tigers are not the 1972 Phillies, so giving all the credit to Verlander seems as much a slap in the face to the rest of the team as a plaudit for the ace right hander.