Bud Bumbles; Verlander Rules

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - September 21, 2011
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It’s fall, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of MVPs, pitching standouts and the continuing bad decisions of Bud Selig.

Let’s start with the commish. For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the New York Mets wanted to reintroduce the NYPD and FDNY hats they donned following the terrorist attacks.

Selig’s answer? No.

He didn’t want to set a precedent. It was the same response Selig gave a decade earlier but was overruled by the players, who basically told the commissioner he could have the hats if he was man enough to take them. He wasn’t. Neither was he this time, so he sent out his personal blast deflector, Joe Torre. This time, with the Mets on the dole to Major League Baseball for $25 million, they didn’t put up much of a fuss. They should have.

With this move the leadership of America’s pastime admitted it cannot distinguish between honoring heroism and senseless promotion.

You screwed up, Bud. Unlike the steroids era or instant replay, there is no correcting mechanism for this lack of responsibility. It was a one-time deal and you blew it. Hopefully your replacement will have more common sense.

Not so valuable?

If we can agree that pitching is the most important part of the game, then how can baseball’s best pitcher not be recognized as its best player? Justin Verlander is the Tigers’ immovable object and its unquestioned best player. That should be enough. But it’s not.

Baseball’s keepers of the holy grail, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America, has determined pitchers aren’t worthy even though voting rules do not disqualify any position.

Since 1931, when the award was created, only 23 pitchers have been honored, and no one since Dennis Eckersley in 1992. Not even Pedro Martinez, who in 1999 went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts to just 37 walks was deemed good enough. The BWAA has, with no authority, determined that since pitchers have the Cy Young (an award they vote on), the MVP is reserved for the hitters. But here’s the thing. Even if Verlander pitches only once every five days, he has a greater impact than any other player.

As of Sept. 23, the Tigers’ right-hander was 23-5, pitched 236 innings, struck out 238, had a .192 BAA, while facing 910 hitters. If he averaged just four pitches per batter, he will already have had 3,640 chances to impact his team. If that’s not value, what is?

More Verlander: The art of pitching is dead.

For the first 110 years of its history, major league pitchers were expected to finish what they started. The game has now been taken over by short-game specialists. Pitchers enter, throw everything they have at the greatest effect and leave at the slightest bit of trouble. The days of Bert Blyleven fixing his own mistakes are gone. That’s where Verlander comes in. He’s so old school he’s groundbreaking.

Verlander enters the game throwing a 93-94 mph fastball, a knee-breaking curve and a change. By the sixth inning his fastball is hitting 97-98 mph and he has introduced his slider to spot duty. If necessary, he can hit triple digits, or slow it down.

Why the odd approach? By not throwing as hard as he can for as long as he can, Verlander is able to pitch deeper into games while maintaining the ability to raise or lower the velocity of his pitches. This also makes his off-speed pitches more effective. Going big from the beginning leaves pitchers with only one speed option, going slower.

Big league hitters destroy repetitive pitching patterns. There’s no reason to make it easier.

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