Justin Verlander wins AL MVP

Justin Verlander led the AL in all three Triple Crown pitching categories.

Last week when Justin Verlander won the AL Cy Young award he expressed the belief that pitchers deserve MVP awards.

It appears that enough voters agreed as Verlander was named the American League MVP yesterday.

“Two arguments: One is the tremendous effect that we have on the day of our game,” Verlander said last week. “If we have a bad day, 95 percent of the time we’re gonna lose. If we have a good day, 85-90 percent of the time we’re gonna win.”

Verlander won the award in a close race that saw six players get at least one first-place vote, four finish with over 200 points and seven get at least 100 points. Verlander won by getting 13 first-place votes and 280 points total.

“Not even in my wildest dreams had I thought of it. I can’t say my dream came true, because it wasn’t my dream,” Verlander said on a conference call.

He finished 38 points higher than Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who received four first-place votes and 242 points for his spectacular comeback season. Toronto’s Jose Bautista, who led the majors in home runs, walks, slugging and OPS, received five first-place votes and 231 points total.

Yankee center fielder Curtis Granderson finished fourth with three first-place votes and 215 points total, while AL batting champion Miguel Cabrera received two first-place vote and 193 points. The final first-place vote went to Texas’ Michael Young, whose 96 points were behind Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez.

The 28-year-old became the first starting pitcher to win the MVP since Roger Clemens’s 24-win season earned him the honor in 1986. He was the first pitcher to win since Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992. Verlander did so despite being left off the ballot entirely by Jim Ingraham of the Herald-News in Northern Ohio.

Verlander won the Rookie of the Year in 2006, then the Cy Young last week and by winning the MVP he is the second player to win all three awards. The other was Don Newcombe, who won the Rookie of the Year in 1949 and the other two awards seven years later with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The race was among the closest in recent history. It was the first AL MVP race with six players getting first-place votes since 2003. Alex Rodriguez won that award by getting six first-place votes and by being one of nine players to get a vote.

Since the race was one of the closest in recent years, some voters used their blogs and columns to explain their votes.

Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe explained that he voted for Verlander because he didn’t feel strongly about the others and that Verlander’s dominant statistics made more sense.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports felt differently and explained that his first-place vote went to Ellsbury because he felt a pitcher should win the award only with a near-historic performance, which he believed Verlander did not.

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times did not list Verlander or Ellsbury first. Instead he listed Granderson first, citing the fact that he led AL in runs and RBI and explaining that team success influenced his vote.

Lynn Henning of the Detroit News voted for Verlander and explained it by saying “Verlander simply was too good, too essential and too dominating to have made him deeper than a first-place pick.”

Verlander also became the fifth MVP in Tigers’ history. The previous four were pitchers as Verlander joins Willie Hernandez (1984), Denny McLain (1968) and Hal Newhouser (1944, 1945).

Overall, 23 players received points, including three other Yankees (CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and David Robertson) besides Cano and Granderson. Last year’s MVP Josh Hamilton received one point.

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter


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