Saturday, August 27, 2011

Justin Verlander

Let me say off the top that I'm not a supporter of Justin Verlander for AL MVP. I think Adrian Gonzalez is the best choice right now (though there's still a lot of games to play). I did want to comment on the idea that Verlander shouldn't get support because he's not a "everyday player". I think that argument is nonsense. And here's why.

The so called "everyday player" can play offense and can play defense. That's it. In regards to defense - there's a stat called put-outs (PO) to measure how many "outs" the player is "responsible" for (sorry for all the "scare" quotes - I can't help myself). Jacoby Ellsbury has 315 PO, Curtis Granderson has 287 PO and Dustin Pedroia has 231 PO. Of course Adrian Gonzalez has as of this morning exactly 1,000 PO on the season. His PO total is more than Ellsbury, Granderson and Pedroia combined but that's because Gonzo plays 1st base. It would be silly to say that even the worst fielding 1st baseman is more valuable than a Gold Glove caliber outfielder like Ellsbury or a Gold Glove winning 2nd baseman like Pedroia simply because the stone hands 1st baseman has more PO and is thus more involved with the defense. That would be like arguing that a pitcher shouldn't be an MVP because he's not as involved as an "everyday player".

Actually the point I was trying to make was the fact that Justin Verlander has 212 strikeouts plus 10 PO. That means he has been directly "responsible" for 222 outs this season on defense which would be fairly close to Pedroia's number of PO. So it can be argued that a dominating strikeout pitcher is almost as involved overall as any "everyday" player. So what about offense?

Well the argument against a pitcher for the MVP is usually that the pitcher is not as involved in a team's success as an everyday player. That he's only a factor every fifth game (which would be 20% of the time in a 5-man rotation). But if you think about it - on offense no matter who the player is they only get to be a factor once every nine at-bats (or about 11% of the time). The rest of the time the player is just watching from the bench or from the on-deck circle having just as much impact as the pitcher who started the game before and is hanging out on the bench. A player at the top of the order will naturally get more plate appearances than a guy batting ninth but even if he accounts for 15% of the team's plate appearances - how is that more important than a starting pitcher who is starting 20% of the games?

OK - you may argue that a starting pitcher may start a game but that doesn't mean he finishes a game and that point is fair enough. However, consider that the Tigers have played 131 games with a total of 1161 innings. Justin Verlander has accounted for 209.67 of those 1161 innings -which equates to 18% of all the team's innings pitched. Not even the best leadoff man is going to equate to 18% of the team's plate appearances.

So tell me again - why is a guy like Verlander less valuable to his team than a "everyday" player?

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