October 21st, 2011

Verlander up for top honor at Players Choice Awards

Justin Verlander is a finalist for not only the American League’s Outstanding Player, but Major League Player of the Year honors among the Players Choice Awards to be announced Nov. 3 on MLB Network.

The MLB Players Association, which administers the awards through player balloting, announced the three finalists for each award on Friday. Verlander is the lone Tiger up for any awards, but the fact that he made the list of finalists for the biggest award on the docket says a lot about his chances.

The awards tend to serve as a preview for the more traditional Major League awards, as voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America and announced later in the month.

Like the AL Cy Young award, Verlander is an overwhelming favorite to win AL Outstanding Pitcher honors. He captured the AL’s pitching Triple Crown by topping all AL pitchers with 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts, becoming the first American Leaguer to do that since Johan Santana in 2006 and the first Tiger since Hal Newhouser in 1945.

Verlander also led AL pitchers with 251 innings, a .192 opposing batting average and a 0.92 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) ratio.

His competition for outstanding pitcher includes Angels ace Jered Weaver, who barely lost out to Verlander for the league ERA title at 2.41 while posting an 18-8 record for an Angels team that finished second to Texas in the AL West. The other finalist is James Shields, whose 11 complete games left him just five outs shy of Verlander’s innings mark while going 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and 225 strikeouts over 249 1/3 innings.

No pitcher has won Player of the Year since it was added to the Players Choice Awards in 1998, but Verlander has a very good shot to be the first. His two competitors are his former Detroit teammate Curtis Granderson, who hit 41 homers with 119 RBIs while leading the league with 136 runs scored, and Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez, who finished second to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in batting average at .338 while driving in 117 runs and posting a .410 on-base percentage.

The Player of the Year award is the players’ equivalent of MVP honors, but it includes players from both leagues. How Verlander fares in balloting won’t necessarily reflect how his AL MVP chances went, because it’s hard to tell whether player sentiment on voting a pitcher for a traditional position player honor reflects the views of writers who vote on MVP. Still, it would be a very nice harbinger for him.

Cabrera did not make the list for Player of the year, nor did he crack the three finalists for AL Outstanding Player despite his AL batting crown. It’s worth noting, though, that balloting among players was conducted in mid-September, before Cabrera’s final-week run to lead the league in average.

Players Choice winners in each category will designate charities to receive grants from the Major League Baseball Players Trust, which promotes community involvement while raising funds and attention for worthy causes. A total of $260,000 in grants will be given out from the awards.


Cabrera set to skip Taiwan series, shoulder still sore

Venezuelan journalist Ignacio Serrano got in touch with Miguel Cabrera yesterday for his reaction to winning the Luis Aparicio Award as Venezuela’s best Major League player this season. Cabrera was very humbled by the award, and the fact that he won it by a unanimous vote from Venezuelan and Spanish-speaking baseball writers, and he talked about being able to spend time at home with his family.

At the end of the post is news that Cabrera will skip the MLB all-star series in Taiwan next weekend to rest his sore right shoulder, which is still bothering him since his collision with Mike Napoli at home plate in Game 4 of the ALCS. If it stays sore, Cabrera told Serrano, he’ll have an MRI to make sure there’s nothing more serious.

Update at 5:20pm: An MLB spokesperson confirmed Cabrera has decided not to take part and will stay home to rest.

Cabrera had agreed to go on the Taiwan trip with Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, among others, but it depended on how far the Tigers got into the postseason. The fact that the Tigers got as deep as they did, six games into the ALCS, didn’t leave much time for Cabrera to recuperate.

As for the shoulder, the fact that Cabrera didn’t have tests on the shoulder before going home suggests it isn’t a long-term concern.