As he has done against hitters all season, Justin Verlander dominated the opposition by winning the American League Most Valuable Player award. He becomes the first starting pitcher in 25 years to do so. Verlander beat out a competitive field led by runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury of Boston and Toronto’s Jose Bautista. Verlander’s took 13 of 28 first-place votes. His case was undoubtedly helped by Boston’s late season collapse – although Ellsbury personally did everything humanly possible to prevent it from happening – and the fact that Toronto was not a legitimate playoff contender. Last week Verlander won the AL Cy Young award in a unanimous vote and has now added the MVP award to a quickly expanding trophy case that is certain to get more full as the Tigers’ ace does not turn 29 until February of 2012.
Rather than a once every 25 years anomaly, the growing popularity of advanced metrics could make Verlander’s win the beginning of a new era in baseball where dominant performances like his are more accurately appreciated for their true impact compared to those of position players over the course of 162 game season. Baseball writers have proven in recent years, particularly with Cy Young voting, that they are not necessarily married to the old voting standards such as over-valuing wins, so Verlander’s victory could provide a ray of hope for the sabermetricians out there.