Verlander wins AL Cy Young Award unanimously

In this Aug. 16, 2011 photo, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander throws a warm up pitch against the Minnesota Twins during a baseball game in Detroit. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

NEW YORK - Justin Verlander breezed to the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday in a unanimous vote after the Detroit Tigers' ace won the pitching version of the Triple Crown.

Verlander dominated the balloting in much the same way he humbled hitters with his 100 mph fastball, sharp curve and wicked slider.

Now, the big question of the baseball awards season: Will he also be chosen the AL MVP next Monday?

No starting pitcher has won the honor since Roger Clemens in 1986, with Dennis Eckersley the last reliever to get it in 1992. Many observers say pitchers shouldn't win the MVP, period, contending they already have their own award. Verlander's year, though, has ratcheted up the debate in a crowded MVP field that includes Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera and more.

Verlander led the majors in wins by going 24-5 and topped baseball with 250 strikeouts. His 2.40 ERA was the best among AL pitchers who qualified for the title.

Verlander drew all 28 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America and finished with 196 points.

Jered Weaver (18-8, 2.41) of the Los Angeles Angels was the only other pitcher listed on every ballot and second with 97 points. James Shields of Tampa Bay was third with 66, followed by CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees with 63. Tigers reliever Jose Valverde, who was perfect in 49 save chances, was fifth with 28.

CBSSports.com's Evan Brunell notes that, prior to Verlander, the last pitcher to have a WHIP under 1.00 and strike out at least 250 batters was in 2004, when three pitchers accomplished the feat in Ben Sheets, Johan Santana and Randy Johnson. But if you add in at least 250 innings pitched, there have only been two pitchers since 1986 to accomplish that feat. Curt Schilling with the Diamondbacks in 2002 is the only other man left standing with Verlander.

Verlander pitched his second career no-hitter, won 12 straight starts down the stretch and helped the Tigers take the AL Central, their first division title since 1987.

In many games, the 28-year-old righty was simply unhittable. He pitched a no-hitter on May 7 at Toronto, missing a perfect game just by an eighth-inning walk on a full-count delivery.

In his next start, he held Kansas City hitless for 5 2-3 innings. Johnny Vander Meer is the only pitcher in history to throw back-to-back no-hitters.

Later in the season, the 6-foot-5 star took a pair of no-hit bids into the eighth inning.

Verlander also led the majors with 251 innings, all while issuing a career-low 57 walks. He pitched four complete games, including two shutouts.

This was the ninth time there was a unanimous winner of the AL Cy Young and first since Johan Santana in 2006, when he won the AL pitching Triple Crown. This was the fourth time a Detroit pitcher won it, with Denny McLain earning the award in 1968 and tying for the honor in 1969, and reliever Willie Hernandez winning in 1984.

A four-time All-Star, Verlander became the first former AL Rookie of the Year to also take the Cy Young. This win included a $500,000 bonus to his $12.75 million salary in 2011.

The only thing missing from Verlander's pitching resume is a World Series title. He is 3-3 with a 5.57 ERA in eight career postseason starts, and went 2-1 in the playoffs this year as the Tigers reached the AL championship series before losing to Texas.

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the favorite to win the NL Cy Young when the results are released Thursday. He won the NL pitching Triple Crown, leading with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts and tying for wins at 21.

The AL and NL Managers of the Year will be announced Wednesday.

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