The year was 2006. A man named George W. Bush was president. Bread cost a nickel, but only if that nickel was taped to three other dollars. And Johan Santana was the best pitcher in baseball. Three years ago today, I was convinced that he should've been the MVP, something that instead went to Justin Morneau.
It's now 2009, and the American League MVP front-runner is Morneau's teammate Joe Mauer. As a catcher he's tremendous, and as a hitter he might be even better. Cases for Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Kevin Youkilis, and Kendry Morales are also being made. Mauer stands out over the 36 first base candidates because catching is harder than playing first, and Derek Jeter doesn't play shortstop by squatting down for every pitch. (Nor does he lead the league in hitting.)
Have we already decided, as a nation, that MVPs do not go to pitchers? Because I lost that memo or failed to submit my change of address form. It's not like they can't; they are perfectly eligible, unlike Elvis Presley's quadrennial grassroots campaign for president.
It would take an amazing season for a pitcher to be considered. Simply being the best pitcher may not warrant enough buzz. But Zack Greinke is, indeed, having such a year. His Adjusted ERA+ is 202. Here are the best ERA+ seasons in the last 60 years:
1. Pedro Martinez, 2000: 291
2. Greg Maddux, 1994: 271
3. Greg Maddux, 1995: 262
4. Bob Gibson, 1968: 258
5. Pedro Martinez, 1999: 243
6. Dwight Gooden, 1985: 228
8. Roger Clemens, 1997: 221
9. Pedro Martinez, 1997: 219
10. Kevin Brown, 1996: 216
11. Roger Clemens, 1990: 213
12. Pedro Martinez, 2003: 210
13. Zack Greinke, 2009: 204
Owning an ERA of 2.14 in the American League, and doing it with a rather bad team, is something you see maybe once every 10 years. Roger Clemens — the last starting pitcher to win the MVP — led the league in ERA for a few seasons with some terrible Blue Jays and Red Sox teams back in the 90s.
Having said all that, I don't know if I can make the case for Greinke over Mauer, but I can stand behind a case for Greinke over everybody but Mauer. (Known in simpler terms as "runner-up.") What's more valuable to a team: a first baseman who hits 40 homers, or an ace pitcher whose strikeout total is equal to the number of hits and walks allowed (224)?Powered by Sidelines