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2011 American League MVP: Justin Verlander

Detroit ace is the first starting pitcher to win the award in 25 years

By

Updated November 22, 2011

The voting totals show that there's still a bias against giving a starting pitcher the Most Valuable Player award. But Justin Verlander was just too good to ignore in 2011.

Verlander, the Cy Young Award winner, had 13 first-place votes and overcame not being named on one ballot to win the award in a tight race over Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Curtis Granderson of the Yankees and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers. The top five vote-getters were separated by 87 points.

Verlander is the first starting pitcher in 25 years to be named MVP and the second player in history to win the Cy Young, MVP and Rookie of the Year in his career. The other one was Don Newcombe, who pulled off the feat with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and 1956.

"Not even in my wildest dreams had I thought of this," Verlander said to the Associated Press. "I want to say this is a dream come true. I can't say that because my dream had already come true … to win a Cy Young. And the next dream is to win a World Series. This wasn't even on my radar until the talk started. And then all of a sudden it was a this-could-actually-happen type of thing."

Verlander, 28, led the AL in wins (24), ERA (2.40) and strikeouts (250). He went 24-5 and held opponents to a .192 batting average in 251 innings. His victory total was the most in the AL since Bob Welch in 1990. Verlander also threw a no-hitter this season, on May 7 against Toronto.

Ellsbury was second on the strength of 13 second-place votes to go with four first-place votes. He hit .321 with 32 homers and 105 RBI hitting at the top of the order for the Boston Red Sox.

The other first-place votes went to Granderson, Cabrera and Texas Rangers designated hitter Michael Young, who was the only player to receive a vote in every slot, 1 through 10.

Bautista, who led the league in home runs, slugging, OPS and walks, had the second-most first-place votes with five. He was also critical of the process that gave Verlander the award.

"When one of the first items in the criteria for the MVP award states that the player should be on the field for the most amount of games for their own particular team and knowing that us position players have to be out there 150 plus times over … I don't know, 30, 32, 33 times that a pitcher has to go out there, in my eyes that's pretty much an elimination right there," Bautista said to ESPN.com. "I'm not knocking on Verlander or the year that he had."

Detroit player have won the award nine times. Verlander is the first to win since Guillermo Hernandez in 1984. He's the 10th pitcher to win the MVP and Cy Young in the same season, the first since reliever Dennis Eckersley in 1992.

The voting is a 10-through-1 system, with 10 points for a first-place vote and one for a 10th-place vote.

2011 American League MVP Voting

2011 AL MVP 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Points
Justin Verlander, Tigers 13 3 3 4 1 2 1 280
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox 4 13 4 1 4 1 1 242
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 5 7 4 4 4 1 1 1 1 231
Curtis Granderson, Yankees 3 4 4 8 6 1 1     215
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 2 9 5 5 2 4   1   193
Robinson Cano, Yankees 2 2 3 6 4 5 1 1 112
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox   1 1 2 6 8 3 3 1 105
Michael Young, Rangers 1 1 1 1 1 1 4 7 4 2 96
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox     4 1 4 6 48
Evan Longoria, Rays 2   1 2   3 27
Ian Kinsler, Rangers 1 2 1 1 1   25
Alex Avila, Tigers     1 1 2 2 13
Paul Konerko, White Sox   5 1 11
CC Sabathia, Yankees 2     10
Adrian Beltre, Rangers   2 1 1 9
Ben Zobrist, Rays 1 1 7
Victor Martinez, Tigers 1 1 2 7
James Shields, Rays 1 5 7
Mark Teixeira, Yankees 1 1 5
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians 1 2 4
Alex Gordon, Royals   3 3
Josh Hamilton, Rangers   1 1
David Robertson, Yankees   1 1
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