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|Subject: Tigers trio honored for outstanding 2011 by MLB.com Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:34 am|| |
Tigers trio honored for outstanding 2011
By Jason Beck / MLB.com | 11/07/11 1:00 PM ET
DETROIT -- The Tigers finished the regular season with their first American League pitching Triple Crown winner since 1945, their second batting champion since 1961, and the closer with the third-best perfect season in save opportunities since the stat was first recognized and tracked.
That followed their first player voted into the starting lineup at an All-Star Game since 2007. It seemed likely they were going to get some recognition during the awards season.
A trio of Tigers have taken team honors, with ace Justin Verlander earning Pitcher of the Year, Miguel Cabrera the Player of the Year and Alex Avila earning Breakout Player of the Year honors. As selected by MLB.com, awards have been designated in the three categories for each of the 30 teams.
While Verlander waits to see whether he'll become the first starting pitcher in a quarter-century to earn league Most Valuable Player Award honors, he already has made a haul. He became just the second pitcher to capture Player of the Year honors as part of the MLB Players Association's annual Players Choice Awards, a recognition by his peers of just how much of an impact he had on the Tigers and their fortunes. He paired that up with AL Pitcher of the Year honors as well, pulling off the same twin killing he had with the Sporting News' annual awards -- also decided by player balloting -- in October.
"Coming from your peers makes it all the more special," Verlander said. "I think with all the talk about, 'Should a pitcher be able to win MVP or a top player award?' -- I think it shows a lot of support for my fellow players to be able to vote me for that. I think it means a lot. When it comes from your peers, the guys you're playing with, the guys you're playing against, it's special."
Verlander topped all AL pitchers with 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts, becoming the first AL hurler to do that since Johan Santana in 2006, and the first Tigers pitcher since Hal Newhouser in 1945. No AL pitcher had won that many games in a season since Bob Welch notched 27 victories for the 1990 powerhouse Oakland Athletics. No Major League pitcher had posted that combination of strong Triple Crown stats in the same season since Randy Johnson in 2002, and no AL pitcher since Vida Blue in 1971.
Verlander also led AL pitchers with 251 innings, a .192 opponents' batting average and a 0.92 WHIP ratio.
The Tigers were 25-9 in games Verlander started, including five wins when scoring three runs or fewer. They were 70-58 in games started by everyone else, and won 14 of those games scoring fewer than three runs.
Verlander might have won Player of the Year honors from MLB.com in its first team awards, but the rules delineate pitchers from hitters. Instead, that went to Cabrera, whose MVP-caliber season unfolded rather quietly before a late charge gave him a .344 average, 30 home runs, 105 RBIs and 1.033 OPS. He was again the heart of the Tigers' offense, as he has been since his arrival in 2008.
While Verlander was the obvious choice to capture the club's Pitcher of the Year honors, his battery mate, All-Star catcher Avila, took the Tigers' Breakout Player of the Year honors -- a testament to the production he assembled in his first season as an everyday player.
Avila was the best young catcher in the AL, as evidenced by his spot on The Sporting News AL All-Star team in October, as voted on by players.
While Cabrera will undoubtedly receive some votes among the top-10 in the AL MVP Award balloting when the results are released Nov. 21, the larger question that day will be whether Verlander's performance convinced enough writers to vote for a pitcher as MVP. It won't take many voters in staunch opposition to sink his chances to win, because while first-place votes matter, it's the second- and third-place tallies among voters that often decide whether a player has the points to pull out a close race.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”