Today the American League MVP Award was given to Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander. I am firmly in the camp that believes that this was well deserved along with the 13 members of the BBWAA that voted him in first place. While I disagree with the conclusion, I am still ok with those who’s math didn’t have Verlander come out on top. However there is one thing I can not stand. Jim Ingraham is a writer in Ohio who has one of the only 28 votes for this award, and he elected to leave Verlander completely off of his ballot. Now, he at least did the courtesy of giving his reasons http://www.news-herald.com/articles/2011/11/21/sports/nh4772249.txt?viewmode=fullstory, but in the end they are not good reasons.
Jim Ingraham’s primary defense of his position is stated here, “I know Verlander is a great pitcher. I also know, by the nature of his job, he did not appear at all in 128 of the Tigers’ games this year. That’s 79 percent of the Tigers’ season. I can’t think of any other sport in which a player who didn’t play in 79 percent of his team’s games could be voted the Most Valuable Player in his league”. Ok, well that seems logical…provided everyone’s participation in the games they play is equal. Ohhh….but it’s not! So maybe we should look at how many plays each player is involved in and see what their potential impact over the course of the season is. For the sake of this argument number of plays are calculated as (Batters Faced + Plate Appearances + Defensive Chances – Defensive Chances as Pitcher).
Justin Verlander was involved in 973 plays on the season. Jose Bautista (Ingraham’s #1 vote getter) was involved in 988 plays on the season. So it would appear that when you factor in the participation that they have it shows that quality starting pitchers and hitters are on an even playing field. So that discredits his primary argument. Now if only there were a statistic that also could measure value across positions…oh, wait, there is. It’s called Wins Above Replacement player. And what do you know, Verlander tied for the highest WAR in all of the American League with Jose Bautista.
So what else could be a motivating factor for this voting? “My ballot is my way of saying it’s unfair… to have to compare pitchers and position players for this particular award”. Huh, interesting. So, the association that gives you the right to vote for this has set up ground-rules for how to vote and they include voting for pitchers and hitters. You don’t like the rules and instead of going through whatever process there would be to change them, you decide that this is a much better approach. It kind of feels like the kid who doesn’t like how the game is going and decides to take his ball and go home at the expense of others (in this case Justin Verlander).
Here’s a thought…if you don’t like the rules, either work to change them or give up your voting rights. Or you could just trust yourself more: “If Verlander was going to be on my ballot at all, he was going to be first”. Yeah, next time just vote him first.