The “Pitchers Shouldn’t Win MVP Award” Stance Makes No Sense

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There’s a large segment of baseball fans and writers that don’t believe pitchers should be able to win the league MVP awards. To them, the best pitchers win the Cy Young Award, and the best hitters win the MVP awards. It’s a philosophy that only holds true in the land of make believe.

Pitchers have won the MVP award in years past. There’s no official rule against this, so why do some feel the need to make up fake ones? As I posted on Twitter yesterday:

"Don’t understand the “pitcher shouldn’t be MVP” theory. Are they not valuable, or are they not players?"

Obviously the last part is tongue-in-cheek. Of course pitchers are players, but I think value portion is part of a serious question. Do these people that want to exclude pitchers from the award actually question their value?

MLB general managers don’t seem to think that hitters carry a greater value than pitchers (at least when it comes to the top level players). Here’s a list of the top five hitters and pitchers in terms of current average contract value:

RankHitterAverage SalaryPitcherAverage Salary
1Alex Rodriguez $  27,500,000Cliff Lee $  24,000,000
2Joe Mauer $  23,000,000CC Sabathia $  23,000,000
3Mark Teixeira $  22,500,000Johan Santana $  22,916,667
4Carl Crawford $  20,285,714Roy Halladay $  20,000,000
5Miguel Cabrera $  19,037,500Carlos Zambrano $  18,300,000

A-Rod skews the numbers into the hitters’ favor, but the average these top five salaries is still under a million bucks per season. If pitchers weren’t as valuable as hitters, there’s no way they would command the same type of salaries.

There’s also a view that pitchers can only play in (approximately) one-fifth of their team’s games. Justin Verlander has only played in 28 games to date (today will be his 29th), but, say, Adrian Gonzalez has played in 129 games.

But games played doesn’t accurately sum up how much action a player sees. Gonzalez only sees about four plate appearances per game played, but Verlander is involved in every plate appearance while he’s in the game. To put this in the context of the season, Verlander has taken part in 803 plate appearances while Gonzalez has only seen 588. Position players play in more games, but the affect a smaller portion of each game. A starting pitcher plays in fewer games, but they have a much bigger role in their games.

It’s clear to me that pitchers can be every bit as valuable as a hitters. Why should we leave them out of the running for baseball’s top individual award?

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