Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw replicated their numbers from 2011, when both won their league's pitching triple crowns and Cy Young awards, except in one important category.
Wins. Both won seven fewer games than they did last season.
C'mon guys. I thought we were past this. Didn't the 2009 and 2010 awards (when Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum won despite less than stellar win totals) prove anything?
Guess not. This time around, the decidedly old-school BBWAA went with the traditional stats and compelling narrative.
Suddenly, Verlander wasn't even in the conversation for his second AL MVP despite accruing 7.5 bWAR, third most in the baseball behind Mike Trout and Robinson Cano (he finished eighth in the voting behind Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones and Derek Jeter, who combined for 8.9 bWAR). Neither was Kershaw, who finished 16th even though his 6.6 bWAR put him in the same ballpark with Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina, Chase Headley, and David Wright.
R.A. Dickey, at the ripe old age of 38 became the first knuckleballer to win the award by capturing 27 of 32 possible first place votes. He joined Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver as the only players in the 50 year history of the New York Mets to win the award.
Dickey had been sneaky-good in 2010 and 2011, but unless you're a die-hard Mets fan or had him on your fantasy team I doubt you noticed. This year, he became a household name. He won 20 games despite playing for a bad team. He led the league in innings, shutouts, and complete games. He paced the league in strikeouts.
Dickey won largely on the strength of his dominant first half. Prior to the All-Star break he went 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 0.93 WHIP while fanning more than a batter per inning. Predictably, he leveled off a bit in the season's final three months, but still pitched well enough to finish with outstanding overall numbers. That Matt Cain, not Dickey, started the All-Star Game remains a mystery.
Choosing between him and Kershaw was splitting hairs. But Dickey had such an incredible backstory, and Kershaw just won last year, so the voters favored Dickey.
Perfectly understandable, even though Kershaw was better by the slimmest of margins.
Never mind the fact that Kershaw posted the best ERA in the major leagues for the second year in a row. Or that he was literally the most unhittable pitcher in baseball (his 6.7 H/9 led both leagues). Or how about the fact that he had the best WHIP in the NL?
Impossible to go wrong with either candidate here. I prefer Kershaw, but have no issue with Dickey winning. Both deserved it, just like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera both deserved to win the AL MVP award. Somebody had to lose.
The wrong man lost in the American League. Verlander was once again the best pitcher in baseball. He deserved to become the first AL hurler to win consecutive Cy Youngs since Pedro Martinez was at the peak of his powers at the turn of the century. JV paced the majors in strikeouts, innings, batters faced, and ERA+. He also had the most adjusted pitching runs, adjusted pitching wins and situational wins.
David Price, my preseason favorite for the award, tied Jered Weaver (who finished third) for the league lead in wins with 20. He also posted the best winning percentage (.800) and ERA (2.56) in the Junior Circuit. But when you consider that wins are dependent on factors outside of a pitcher's control, and that Verlander's 2.64 ERA was actually more impressive according to ERA+, then the basis of Price's candidacy falls apart.
That Verlander finished four spots higher on the AL MVP ballot should tell you all you need to know.