Although there’s still half a month to go before the postseason, many sportswriters have already moved beyond the silly question of who will face whom in the playoffs and onto the much more serious inquiry of who deserves the upcoming postseason awards. Things are a bit tricky this year, especially in the AL, where the debate over the future MVP hinges on how people define valuable. Bill Simmons tackled the question in a recent piece and I tend to think he came up with the right formula.
For me, it comes down to one simple question. What one person, if he hadn’t been playing for a team, would have been the biggest loss over the course of the season? Clearly I’m a little biased but could anyone really imagine the Tigers where they are right now without Justin Verlander? It’s not just about Verlander’s individual success. It’s also the fact that he took an underachieving team, hefted them up on his shoulder and said, “Like it or not, we’re going to win and I’m going to show you how.” That’s not just value, that’s some straight-up Nietzschean will to power.
The case could be made for other players who at least have a shot at the award. And although we all know that pitching wins championships, a very real prejudice against pitchers exists when it comes to the MVP. But no matter how the rest of the season plays out, there’s no way the Tigers are leading the AL Central in mid-September without Justin Verlander. Show me another player who’s more valuable than that.