The AL/NL MVP Dichotomy

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On one side, you have a pitcher who has to deal with the dogmatism of the self-involved voters who feel as if they’re the interpreters and adjusters of stated rules.

On the other, you have a player who’s put up numbers that justify a Most Valuable Player season, but is on a team that is out of contention.

How’s this going to go?

Justin Verlander of the Tigers is a clear MVP candidate as well as the AL Cy Young Award winner.

Matt Kemp of the Dodgers is leading the National League in homers and RBI and is right behind Jose Reyes and Ryan Braun for the lead in batting average.

Of course stat people will scoff at the value of both RBI and average, but the Triple Crown is the Triple Crown—it still has meaning as a symbol even if the results aren’t showing up in the won/lost column for the Dodgers.

The Tigers pulled away from the NL Central pack with a 12 game winning streak, but before that their playoff hopes rested largely on the shoulders of Verlander and Miguel Cabrera; without Verlander, they would’ve been barely in contention, if at all.

This is a situation where Wins Above Replacement—in context—is a valuable stat.

Kemp’s WAR is 9.6; let’s say the Dodgers found someone who was serviceable in center field, they still would be well below the 79-77 record they’ve posted with a second half string of good play after an awful start.

Verlander’s WAR is 8.6 and the Tigers would have no chance of replicating even a quarter of what Verlander has meant to the team given the dearth of pitching available. If the Tigers were to lose Cabrera, they would’ve found someone—Carlos Beltran; Josh Willingham; Michael Cuddyer—to make up for some semblance of that lost offense. Such was not the case with Verlander.

The other MVP candidates in the National League like Albert Pujols are just as irreplaceable as Kemp; the Brewers strength has been on the mound and they have enough offense to function if Braun were injured; in fact, there’s an argument that Prince Fielder has been more valuable to the Brewers than Braun has.

In the American League, the same holds true for the Red Sox with Adrian Gonzalez and the Yankees with Curtis Granderson. Had either player gone down, the Red Sox could’ve plugged someone in at either first or third base and gotten by without Gonzalez; the Yankees would’ve gotten a corner outfield bat, shifted Brett Gardner to center and survived with the rest of the lineup picking up the slack.

So does it come down to the “best” player? The “most valuable”?

And are these arguments going to mirror one another in each league while, in some way, validating both?

I only hope that George King of the New York Post no longer has a vote. It was King who famously left Pedro Martinez off his 1999 ballot because he was supposedly convinced by people he respected the year before that pitchers didn’t deserve MVP votes (EUREKA!!!) and left the deserving winner off his ballot entirely depriving him of the award that went to Ivan Rodriguez. In a ludicrous bit of backpedaling and stupid “explanation”, King said that he thought then-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams was more valuable to the Red Sox than Martinez.

If he has a vote this season, one can only hope that King hasn’t been studiously watching the job done by Eric Wedge with the Mariners and deemed it more important than Verlander’s work; if that’s the case, then Verlander’s going to be left out in the cold just like Martinez was and it’ll be a case of idiocy all over again.

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