NEW YORK — There was little question Justin Verlander would unanimously win the AL Cy Young Award. Now, the far more intriguing question: Will he take the MVP, too?
“Do I think it’s possible? Yes. Would I like to win it? Of course,” he said during a conference call. “It’s kind of a weird scenario.”
No starting pitcher has won the MVP trophy since Roger Clemens in 1986, with Dennis Eckersley the last reliever to get it in 1992. Many say pitchers shouldn’t win the MVP, period, contending they already have their own award.
But Verlander’s season — he won the pitching version of the Triple Crown, led Detroit to its first division crown in 24 years and drew every first-place vote Tuesday in the Cy Young race — has ratcheted up the debate in a crowded MVP field that includes Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera and more.
“Pitchers are on the ballot,” Verlander said. Bolstering the case for all pitchers, Verlander pointed to the “tremendous effect we have on the day of our game.”
“I’m so different from everybody,” he said.
If he doesn’t win, Verlander said he’d like to see Granderson, his former teammate, get the award.
Verlander breezed to the Cy Young, much the way the Tigers’ ace humbled hitters with his 100 mph fastball, sharp curve and wicked slider.
Verlander led the majors in wins by going 24-5 and topped baseball with 250 strikeouts. His 2.40 ERA was the best among AL pitchers who qualified for the title.
The 28-year-old righty was listed on top on all 28 ballots by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and finished with 196 points.
Jered Weaver (18-8, 2.41) of the Los Angeles Angels was the only other pitcher listed on every ballot and second with 97 points. James Shields of Tampa Bay was third with 66, followed by CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees with 63. Tigers reliever Jose Valverde, who was perfect in 49 save chances, was fifth with 28.
“Since the end of the season, people have been saying that the Cy Young is wrapped up,” said Verlander, who added he waited until the announcement to celebrate.
Verlander pitched his second career no-hitter, won 12 straight starts down the stretch and helped the Tigers take the AL Central.
In many games, he was simply unhittable. He pitched a no-hitter on May 7 at Toronto, missing a perfect game just by an eighth-inning walk on a full-count delivery.
In his next start, he held Kansas City hitless for 5 2-3 innings. Johnny Vander Meer is the only pitcher to throw back-to-back no-hitters.
Later in the season, the 6-foot-5 star took a pair of no-hit bids into the eighth inning — one of those came on July 31 against Weaver and the Angels, a 3-2 win at Detroit.
“I felt like it was a statement game,” Verlander said. “A lot of people had eyes on that game.”
Verlander also led the majors with 251 innings, all while issuing a career-low 57 walks. He pitched four complete games, including two shutouts.
This was the ninth time there was a unanimous winner of the AL Cy Young and first since Johan Santana in 2006, when he won the AL pitching Triple Crown. Verlander said he remembered watching Santana that year.
“That’s a big league pitcher,” Verlander recalled telling himself. “That’s a stud.”
This was the fourth time a Detroit pitcher won it, with Denny McLain earning the award in 1968 and tying for the honor in 1969, and reliever Willie Hernandez winning in 1984. McLain, in 1968, and Hernandez went on to win the AL MVP awards, too.
A four-time All-Star, Verlander became the first former AL Rookie of the Year to also take the Cy Young. This win included a $500,000 bonus to his $12.75 million salary in 2011.
Verlander said he started his push this year in spring training. He’d gotten off to bad starts in previous seasons and decided to be “results oriented” beginning in exhibition games.
Verlander has started his offseason workout program, and plans to wait until January before throwing again. He went to the New England Patriots-New York Jets game Sunday night with teammate Rick Porcello and said a football was being passed around, but he avoided the temptation to toss it.
The only thing missing from Verlander’s pitching resume is a World Series title. He is 3-3 with a 5.57 ERA in eight career postseason starts, and went 2-1 in the playoffs this year as the Tigers reached the AL championship series before losing to Texas.
He probably wouldn’t mind a hit, either. He’s 0 for 20 with 13 strikeouts in his big league career. He also tied for the AL lead in errors by a pitcher with five.
Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the favorite to win the NL Cy Young when the results are released Thursday. He won the NL pitching Triple Crown, leading with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts and tying for wins at 21.
The AL and NL Managers of the Year will be announced Wednesday.