There's been a lot of buzz lately about Justin Verlander's MVP case. Does he deserve to be the first pitcher to win the MVP since reliever Dennis Eckersley in 1992? Should pitchers ever win the MVP? Our own Ryan Weiss thinks Verlander deserves serious consideration and Verlander would have Buster Olney's vote, but Jim Leyland doesn't think his ace should win the MVP [H/T BLS]:
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. To me right now if you really wanted to look at it who is our Most Valuable Player? Is it Verlander or at this point today under all circumstances is it Alex Avila? You can make a case for what this kid has gone through. I’m certainly not taking anything away from Verlander and I’m not trying to change the voting I just think there should be a Most Valuable Pitcher and a Most Valuable Player. I think that will eliminate the talk about a pitcher being MVP."
I'd be fine with that if MVP was restricted to non-pitcher players, but it's not. The analysis would have to go much deeper than games played, too. The question is, do hitters impact 35 games a season the way a pitcher does? Sure, they have some impact on every game they play, but the kind of impact the pitcher does when he throws 100-130 pitches in the games he starts? I know WAR is supposed to be scaled equally for pitchers and hitters, but I feel like there's more to it. Someone on the internet with more time should get on that.
It's also disconcerting that Leyland appears to take Cabrera for granted. Cabrera leads the Tigers in every major offensive category: R, HR, RBI, BA, OBP, OPS, and go-ahead hits (18). I'm not going to pretend Leyland is a big proponent of the WAR stat, but that's the only stat that puts Avila ahead of Cabrera, albeit slightly. Personally, I think if there's any debate as to who the Tigers' MVP is this season, it's between Verlander and Cabrera.
UPDATE: Friend of SB Nation Detroit Paul Sporer took some time to calculate Verlander's contribution vs. Cabrera's, which you can read in his ESPN Sweetspot piece on Verlander's 20th win:
Looking at Verlander’s 216 innings pitched shows that he has pitched 18.6 percent of the Tigers total innings (1161) while the team’s best offensive player and marginal MVP candidate, Miguel Cabrera, has logged 577 plate appearances, or 11.5 percent of their 5001 total plate appearances. So who is really making a bigger contribution?