Verlander, Valverde win GIBBY pitching honors
Tigers duo takes home top starting pitcher, top closer awards
Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander was overpowering this past season, proving that he is undoubtedly one of the few true aces in baseball. As dominant as Verlander was, though, he could not do it on his own.
In that sense, it seems fitting that Verlander and teammate Jose Valverde have each earned a Greatness in Baseball Yearly Award for their respective performances. Verlander was voted the game's top starting pitcher, while Valverde took home the honor for baseball's best closer.
"Obviously, you can't do it by yourself," Verlander said after being named the American League's Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Verlander was voted the MVP as well as the AL Cy Young Award winner, but the hard-throwing right-hander always made sure to credit his Detroit teammates. A pitcher can't win without offensive support or without solid game-calling by his catcher. It also helps to have a closer capable of slamming the door on opponents.
This past season, Valverde went 49-for-49 in save chances. On 13 occasions, the charismatic closer saved one of Verlander's 24 victories. From one J.V. to the other, the pair of hurlers made for an imposing duo. Their contributions were a big part of Detroit's run to the AL Central crown.
Now, they each have a new trophy to display.
GIBBY Award winners are calculated based on four segments of voters that each account for 25 percent of the total vote (millions of fans at MLB.com, media, front-office personnel, and MLB alumni took part in the balloting).
The ultimate honors of baseball's awards season, 2011 GIBBY trophies were awarded to MLB's top player, starting pitcher, rookie, breakout player, comeback player, wow factor, closer, setup man, defensive player, manager and executive, as well as to the 2011 postseason MVP, with no restriction to league affiliation.
GIBBY trophies also given out for the year's top play, moment, walk-off, performance, oddity, fan moment and postseason moment from MLB.com's "Must C" highlight vault.
Verlander finished 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, piling up 250 strikeouts in 251 innings across 34 starts. The right-hander fashioned a 0.920 WHIP and a .192 opponents' batting average, making him an easy choice for the AL Cy Young. Handing Verlander the MVP as well made his season one for the history books.
"Not even in my wildest dreams had I thought of this," Verlander said after being named MVP. "I want to say this is a dream come true. I can't say that, because my dream had already come true -- to win the Cy Young. The next dream is to win a World Series. This wasn't even on my radar until the talk started."
The last pitcher to win the MVP was A's closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992. The last starting pitcher to be named AL MVP was Roger Clemens of the Red Sox in 1986. Verlander's 24 wins were the most in a season since Bob Welch won 27 for the A's during the 1990 campaign.
His win opposite Jered Weaver and the Angels on July 31 was cited as a game that gave the Tigers confidence that they could compete with and beat the best teams in the league. His May 7 no-hitter coincided with the stretch during which the Tigers began to dig out from a slow start.
Verlander's 16-3 record against division opponents made him a difference-maker in an AL Central race that was close for much of the summer until Detroit pulled away down the stretch. From July 21-Sept. 18, Verlander won 12 consecutive starts and posted a 2.28 ERA to aid the Tigers' surge.
Verlander was tough enough on the opposition.
Valverde took things to another level.
Valverde -- known for his wild on-field celebrations -- posted a 2.40 ERA, made the All-Star team and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting. He easily surpassed Guillermo Hernandez's franchise record of 32 consecutive saves and the right-hander went on to topple Todd Jones' club mark of 42 saves in 2000.
Valverde became only the third pitcher in baseball history to achieve perfection over an entire season with more than 28 saves. The others to accomplish that feat were Eric Gagne (55 for the Dodgers in 2003) and Brad Lidge (41 for the Phillies in 2008). Valverde has already earned MLB's Delivery Man of the Year honor.
"Every time I go to the mound, I have to do my job," Valverde said this season. "This is why the Tigers pay me. This is the job I want to do. It's fun playing baseball, but this is a job that I have to do seriously all the time when I'm on the mound."