The news that Justin Verlander had been named as American League MVP this afternoon had barely begun to settle in when the first dissections of the ballot were beginning to trickle out. Numerous tweets began flying about complaining about Jose Bautista getting a ninth-place vote or Verlander getting left off a ballot entirely.
All told, the debate over the final votes has been almost as entertaining as the debate over how the vote would turn out. For all the writers chirping and the seemingly national debate over whether or not a pitcher should even be eligible for the award, only one voter decided they couldn’t bring themselves to list Verlander. As surprising as that was, it’s not as if Verlander ran away with the honors. The vote was so spread out that no fewer than six players received a first-place vote, the highest such total since 2003, when 10 players got listed on the top line at least once.
Also like the 2003 vote, when then-Ranger Alex Rodriguez won the award, a Ranger got a first-place nod this time as well. Michael Young was listed first on the ballot of Dallas Morning News columnist Evan Grant. Fueled largely by Grant’s vote, Young garnered enough points to place eighth in the balloting this year.
There has been quite a bit of outrage over Grant’s vote for Young and I can see where the venom is coming from. Grant is said to be posting a piece this afternoon that will explain his ballot in detail, but he alluded to some of the arguments on twitter today already. The crux of the debate will be hinged on how you define the “Valuable” in the MVP award itself.
If you think the award should simply be given to the league’s best player, as does Matt Kaufman of Fangraphs, apparently, then Young probably doesn’t appear in your top-10. Five voters agreed with Kaufman, leaving Young completely off their ballot. On the other hand, if you think the award should go to a player who brought extraordinary value to his team, as the guidelines state, than can you really make the case that there are 10 players who did more for their team than Young did? Probably not.
Am I suggesting that Grant was right is his opinion that young was the most valuable? No, but I can see the logic to it. Personally, my vote would have been for Verlander, but I would do so considering how much he meant to the Tigers, even if he only appeared every fifth game.
Young was nothing short of tremendous offensively yet again, but his defense versatility is what cements his value. He isn’t a great defender, but he’s skilled enough and athletic enough to play three infield positions reasonably well. By doing this, he essentially serves as an everyday utilityman, providing rest for the regulars at third, second, and first and DH-ing when that rest is not needed.
Much the same way that having a guy like Verlander start a game today provides rest for your bullpen and keeps them fresh for tomorrow, Young’s presence allows for guys like Beltre and Kinsler to hopefully avoid some extra wear and tear. If/when one of them does land on the disabled list, Young is used as a replacement starter in the field, providing much more offense than a typical injury-replacement would.
The detractors of this argument will note that Young is not a great defender at any position, and they aren’t wrong to do so, but his bat does more than make up for his defensive shortcomings, especially when used in the field on a limited basis.
I don’t believe Young is the most valuable player in the AL. I’m also not sold that he’s more valuable than any other Ranger, given what Beltre and Kinsler bring on both sides of the field. But Young is an important piece in an impressive Rangers lineup and he does have great value in that way.