Earlier Monday, the BBWAA announced that Justin Verlander won the 2011 AL MVP award, beating out Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, and a host of others. Verlander picked up 13 of the 28 first-place votes, becoming the first starting pitcher to be named the league's most valuable player since Roger Clemens in 1986.
The announcement was received pretty well, or at least I think it was; from where I sat, few were disappointed. A compelling case could be made for a few other candidates, but a compelling case could also be made for Verlander, so he's thought to be a deserving winner in a group of would-be deserving winners.
So this time around, there wasn't any outrage, right? Wrong. Even though all the ballots added up in an agreeable way, there were a few things that stood out. Setup man David Robertson picked up a tenth-place vote. Jered Weaver didn't get a single vote, despite the fact that he allowed fewer runs per nine innings than Verlander, over a similar number of innings. And, most conspicuously and most controversially, Michael Young picked up a first-place vote, while one ballot omitted Verlander completely.
These two ballots are differently conspicuous. The former is very conspicuous - there is a 1 in the "1st" column beside Michael Young's name. The latter is less conspicuous, as it requires one to add up all of Verlander's votes and note that the result is 27, not 28. But these are the two ballots that seem to be catching the most flak, as the public cannot understand the thinking.
Michael Young's first-place vote came from the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant. (A Rangers writer!) Maybe it shouldn't have come as a surprise - at the end of September, Grant wrote that Young was his Rangers MVP, for reasons that, well, whatever. For the sorts of reasons that you can predict.
If you believe in WAR, Young was the Rangers' tenth-most valuable player this season according to Baseball-Reference, and eighth-most valuable player according to FanGraphs. If you don't believe in WAR, what Young offered was durability and a high batting average. What he didn't offer was good defense, good power, or much in the way of patience. He was an important player on a good team, but he was by no means the most important, and keep in mind that we're talking about just the Rangers. In the whole league? It's nonsense.
Meanwhile, the guy who didn't vote for Justin Verlander was The Herald-News' Jim Ingraham. Notes Ingraham:
Ingraham doesn't think pitchers should be eligible for MVP.
"I'd wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year," Ingraham said. "He hasn't appeared in 79 percent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn't appear in 79 percent of his team's games in a year."
It's the reasoning you'd expect, and the only justification for leaving Verlander off. With the problem being that MVP voters are explicitly told that both position players and pitchers are eligible. Verlander led the AL in innings, he led the AL in ERA, and he was a strikeout machine, making him worthy of at least some down-ballot recognition, instead of no recognition at all.
Now, let's all understand that these awards aren't really important. They're made to seem important by the tradition, by their timing, and by the people who vote for them, but the reason these awards get so much attention from fans is that fans generally don't have anything else to talk about. It's November. Baseball's pretty quiet. The awards provide some material. The attention and angst are borne of desperation.
But with that said, I'm curious to see which ballot you think is worse, or less justifiable. Nobody will care in a week, and nobody might care in a day, but people care now, so please vote! Please vote before reading ahead, because below I'm revealing my vote and I don't want to bias the results. This is very scientific.
Both, obviously, are flawed. They're bad ballots, at least in my estimation. But I'm gonna have to go ahead and say that Grant's is worse. I don't agree with Ingraham's standpoint on pitcher value, but at least he abides by a consistent principle. Grant's Young vote reeks of bias and subjectivity, as if he chose Young and then looked for reasons, rather than the other way around. Grant is a big Young fan, and credits him with things that show up in the box score, and things that do not, as if Young had a hand in so many things that went right for the Rangers this year. Maybe that's true, but for one thing, Young's influence is probably limited, and for another thing, Grant seemingly didn't consider that the same things might've applied to other candidates as well.
There is a big gap between Young's statistics and the statistics posted by other, favored candidates. Grant believes that the gap is smaller than it is, and believes that Young's - I guess I have to call them intangibles - intangibles make up the difference. This is a huge, unfalsifiable leap, and a pretty good argument for not caring about these awards too much in the first place.