As the baseball season nears its halfway point there are two candidates in the American League that are the favorites to win the prestigious MVP award: the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, and the Boston Red Sox’s Mookie Betts. The two sluggers are the hearts of their respective teams, and each player has put up numbers so far that makes either of them more than deserving of the award. But the Houston Astros’ Justin Verlander is not so subtly building a case for him to be the one to take home the award.
As it stands, a pitcher is already going to have the deck stacked against them for winning the MVP award. But Verlander has already won the award once back in 2011, and he is arguably performing better this season than he did last season. There is already an argument to be made about him being the best pitcher in baseball right now, but due to his career resurgence, there is also one to be made about him being the best player in baseball right now.
The first factor that Verlander has going for him is that he has already won the award before. This gives voters a certain familiarity with him that will allow them to be more comfortable voting for him over position players like Trout and Betts. And since he won the award back in 2011 with worse statistics, its an easy progression of logic to have him win it again this season.
The next factor that he has in his favor is how well he is playing this season. As the league nears the halfway point of the season, Verlander has a 1.60 earned run average over 107 innings with a whopping 130 to 21 strikeout to walk ratio. Of his 16 games started, 15 of them have been quality starts. His WHIP is a minuscule 0.776, which leagues the league so far this season. Obviously, there is still a lot of the season left to be played but so far there is no reason to doubt that Verlander can keep up this level of play.
The final factor that he has in his favor is his age. Verlander is putting up these numbers at 35 years of age. This is around the time where most players start regressing. Especially players who have played 13 years in the majors while averaging over 200 innings pitched a season. Verlander is well past his prime and yet he can still consistently strike out batter after batter and put his team in the position it needs to be in to win the game. This paired with his history with the award and his statistics puts him into a position where voters will at the very least have to ask themselves why they shouldn’t vote for him, rather than why they should.
The Houston Astros are arguably the best team in Major League Baseball right now. They are full of talented players that allow them to be at an advantage against almost every team they face. In order to win the MVP award, a player not only has to be the most valuable player in the league, but they also have to be the most valuable player on their own team. It’s hard to do that when on the best team around. That is why what Verlander is doing is so special. To even have his name in the conversation is a tremendous honor for the pitcher. If he keeps performing the way he has so far this season, he should win the award over Trout and Betts. While Trout and Betts have less to work with on their respective teams, they also have fewer obstacles in their path to get themselves noticed. Verlander doesn’t have that advantage. This is why come the end of the season, people shouldn’t be shocked if Justin Verlander ends up with the second MVP award of his career.