Justin Verlander triggered another great ballwriter debate by winning the Most Valuable Player Award in the American League.
We heard how starting pitchers should never when the MVP award because they only work every fifth day; one voter, Jim Ingraham, left him off his ballot entirely for that reason.
“If I thought pitchers should be eligible, I would have voted him No. 1,” Ingraham told the Detroit Free Press. "Verlander pitched in 21 percent of his team's games. If this was the NFL, that would be three games. I know it's two different sports, but I can't see a quarterback winning the MVP if he appeared in only three games.”
He's right. These are different sports. Baseball is a marathon governed by team streaks. A great starting pitcher makes an impact that carries into games he doesn't appear in.
There is no statistical formula to prove that phenomenon, but it's true. Great starting pitchers stop slumps (Verlander was 16-3 after Tiger losses) and start winning streaks. Great starting pitchers bolster the confidence of everybody around them.
In exceptional years, they can be the most valuable player. They can make the biggest difference for team success, which is the essence of "most valuable."
(People who don't believe this concept may also believe there is no such thing as a clutch hitter, because this quality cannot be quantified through statistical calculation. It's a crazy world, which explains why Hollywood made a movie honoring the general manager of a perennial also-ran franchise.)
Back to Ingraham for a second. He voted slugger Jose Bautista first on his ballot. Bautista elevated the Blue Jays to their fourth-place finish in the American League East, 16 games out of first place.
Imagine where the Jays would have finished without Bautista.
Jose did a ton of meaningless statistical damage in games that didn't matter. Congratulations! Again, the point of baseball is to win games and advance toward postseason play.
We also heard that Verlander’s performance wasn’t really as good as it seemed. Among the arguments against Verlander: His “ERA-plus” statistic was not epic this year. Wrote FoxSports.com scribe Ken Rosenthal:
ERA-plus — ERA adjusted to league and ballpark — enables us to compare pitchers from different eras by how they performed relative to their peers in a given season. The average is 100. Pedro Martinez in 2000 set the all-time record: 291. Greg Maddux holds the third- and fourth-highest all-time marks. Roger Clemens has three of the top 23, Martinez four of the top 31, Randy Johnson three of the top 46. Verlander in 2011 ranked 136th. His ERA-plus of 170 was the approximate equivalent of Al Leiter’s 1998 performance.
Great. But here’s thing: Victories advance teams into postseason play, not ERA-plus. Umpires don’t break out their calculators after nine innings to determine the winner. They check the scoreboard.
Verlander finished 24-5 this season. He won 12 straight starts from late July through mid-September.
Without Verlander serving as the textbook "stopper", the Tigers might have been a .500 team – like the Blue Jays. Fortunately enough ballwriters were willing to recognize him as the AL's top difference maker and Verlander got the hardware.
CRUMMY EFFORT OF NIGHT
Sure, it was great to have Penguins star Sidney Crosby back on the ice. And it was great to see him ring up four points in his return game.
But how bad are the Islanders? They went all Washington Generals out there and basically got out of Sid the Kid's way. Sad.
FROM THE TWEETDECK
Here is what folks were writing in the Twitterverse during the “Monday Night Football” game:
Jimmy Traina: “Jon Gruden just now: ‘I think the Kansas City are in real trouble tonight.’ Gee, ya think? They're starting Tyler Palko & the line is 17.”
Trey Wingo: “Gronkowski now should officially have his own cartoon show: Gronk score! Gronk spike! Gronk happy!”
Jason Whitlock: “Patriots/Belichick gonna let a brother get into the end zone tonight? The great white athleticism on the Patriots is a story media ignore.”
Mark Kriegel: “Everytime I hear Chris Berman I want to help in the fight against Tourette Syndrome.”
Eric Stangel: “The #Patriots just hit Palko so hard, Ryan Mathews fumbled at home... #Chargers #MNF”
Ross Tucker: “Does anyone know anybody that actually gave someone a surprise Lexus for X-Mas? Exactly. Give me a break.”
Clay Travis: “Does Mike Tirico have to sell newspapers on the street after MNF? Only explanation for the hat.”