October 28 – Justin Verlander has been named Sporting News’ 2011 player of the year. In voting done by 289 major league players (177 players from the AL and 112 from the NL), Verlander was the first pitcher to win the award since the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Orel Hershiser in 1988. The award is presented by Gillette Odor Shield.

Verlander stood out in 2011 among even his most dominant peers with a 24-5 record, 250 strikeouts and 2.40 ERA.

“He’s had one of the best seasons for a pitcher. Ever,” New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia said.

“He’s pretty incredible,” Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said after Verlander struck out 11 New York batters in the ALDS. “He’s throwing 100 mph in the eighth inning. That’s impressive. I don’t know if there’s anyone else in baseball, especially a starter, that can do that.”

Verlander’s maturation process in the majors wasn’t immediate. After a stellar 2006 season (17-9, 3.63 ERA) that earned him the rookie of the year honors, Verlander had a strong 2007 (18-6, 3.66) but a rocky 2008 (11-17, 4.84) before he really started to dominate hitters in the fashion he did this year.

“One of my favorite lines is you can’t make a senior out of a freshman,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It takes time. … You have to go through different experiences before you really get to (your) peak. I think Justin has taken it step by step. He had the big year in 2006. Then he went through a little bit of a humbling period. He’s made adjustments mentally, he’s made some adjustments physically. He’s figured some things out. … He’s matured a lot.”

About Sporting News’ awards: Voting for Sporting News’ 2011 baseball awards was done by major league players, managers and front office executives. Ballots were distributed to all 30 teams, and 289 players, 55 executives and 23 managers participated in the voting. Players voted for player of the year, comeback players of the year and rookies of the year; managers voted for managers of the year; and executives voted for the All-Star teams. For more on the awards and to see all the winners, please visit: http://aol.sportingnews.com/mlb/feed/2011-09/mlb-awards

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