We had a feeling it was a pretty rare thing for Justin Verlander to win the MVP award as a starting pitcher. But until we actually looked at the numbers, we didn't quite grasp just how infrequent the feat has been in recent history.
Prior to 1972, it was uncommon but not exactly rare for a starting pitcher to win the MVP award. In 1968, in fact, Bob Gibson and Denny McLain each won the award in their respective leagues. In 1971, Vida Blue won in the AL. Until Monday, guess how many other starters had won the award from 1972 forward?
One. Roger Clemens in 1986. That's it. A few other relievers took home MVP honors in that span, but before Verlander took home the AL award today, no pitcher in either league, starter or reliever, had won since Dennis Eckersley in 1992.
You can argue about whether a starting pitcher, who appears in roughly one of every five games, should win an MVP. We'll say this: Verlander was the best player we saw in the American League in 2011, regardless of position. In our mind, he earned this award.