I haven’t found an offshore book that currently has MVP odds posted, unfortunately. The odds above depend on the total number of players receiving votes, so if I limit the odds to only those in the top 10:
Once again, I decided to make an arbitrary formula for pitchers since the distribution of voting points is wildly inconsistent from year to year for pitchers that earned voting points (largely due to the relatively low correlation between voting points and WPA, voting points and ERA or WHIP). In contrast to the NL, where only five pitchers have even been considered for the award since 2000, 51 pitchers in the AL have received voting points over the last eleven years. Unfortunately this does little to satisfy voting trends for pitchers, due to the aforementioned inconsistencies. Because of this, I used the ’99 and ’00 seasons from Pedro Martinez as models for what pitchers have to do relative to offensive players being considered for the MVP award, to finish in the top five. Essentially a 10 WAR pitcher with a WPA around 7 or greater for a playoff team and an ERA+ of about 200 has a legitimate shot to win the MVP in any given season. Justin Verlander falls short of these arbitrary values , and the table above shows where he ranks in the top 15.
We can actually assess how many wins above average Verlander is worth that may offer more clarity. The Tigers score 4.73 runs per game and are 25-9 when Verlander starts. For simplicity, let’s make the assumption that psychological factors do not come into play, and 4.73 r/g is solely contingent on the listed starter of the opposition. When Verlander doesn’t start, the Tigers allow 4.87 r/g. Using Pythagenpat, and an average pitcher resolving Verlander’s 34 starts in the same run environment, the Tigers would win 16-17 of those 34 starts. This would place Verlander at between 8-9 wins above average for his team, and the Tigers would still win the division rather comfortably.
Miguel Cabrera has made a vicious surge in September, with a ridiculous 1.291 OPS and an impressive 2.484 WPA, all this amidst a jaw-dropping .443 BABIP. For the season his BABIP is .363, not outlandish when you consider for his career his hit/contact rate approaches 35%.
Is he the MVP? He’s third in the AL in WAR, and again the table above merely reflects a voting trend for hitters since 2000. But this isn’t 2000. Sabermetrics is an unstoppable force for which there appears to be no barrier. If we rank the contenders solely by WAR, there is still a major flaw. WAR for pitchers and WAR for hitters are founded on different units. Can we convert performance metrics to one robust measure for both pitchers and hitters? Well one can measure runs allowed or runs produced per inning, but hitters account for three or four times as many innings as a typical starting pitcher.
One possible way would be to calculate how many runs the Tigers need to score to maintain that 25-9 record if an average pitcher pitched in place of Verlander. I’m going to use base runs to ensure the units are consistent, and the Tigers allow 4.79 BsR/g when Verlander doesn’t start. The quick way to find the runs needed to maintain a 69% winning percentage over 34 games is to use solver in Microsoft Excel, and the answer is 7.16 BsR/g, which equates to .27 BsR/out. For Cabrera use the BsR formula for offensive players to find an approximate estimation of total run production, and divide by the number of outs (AB – H). The result is .32 r/out. An extremely crude way to compare hitters and pitchers but intuitively Cabrera being worth about .05 more r/out than Verlander is reasonable.
I’m not finished yet. In proportion one can create a scenario where Verlander’s hypothetical offensive output mirrors his pitching output by removing hitters of similar value after a certain number of innings pitched to express innings pitched per start. This scenario was reconciled by the calculations on Verlander in the previous paragraph, but much of the variance can at times be explained by how well the bullpen performs. The goal is for the offense to score 7.16 BsR/g to achieve 25 wins in 34 games. If Verlander averages 7 IP/GS, then after 7 IP his hypothetical offensive performers will be removed from the lineup accordingly, though in this case his equivalent worth will continue on through the 9th inning. The Tigers currently average 4.86 BsR/g during Verlander’s starts, or 1.08 BsR every two innings, which means the Tigers with an offensive player of Verlander’s value inserted into the lineup every inning would score .29 r/out, increasing his runs per out by .02 runs. This explanation at least accounts for a pitcher’s ability to pitch late in games.