(CTN News) – Justin Verlander took home the American League Cy Young award on Wednesday. In each league, he was voted the top pitcher of the year along with Sandy Alcantara.
Justin Verlander, 39, also won MVP and Rookie of the Year hardware and a pair of rings, but this was the most special of all for the right-hander.
Verlander is the first pitcher to return from Tommy John surgery and a year and a half away from the game to dominate like he did this season. The fact that he was able to accomplish this at such an advanced age is even more impressive.
Justin Verlander talent has long been known to Tigers fans, but if anyone needed proof, the 2022 season provided it. For at least another two seasons, if not longer, I would bet that no other pitcher will be more valuable.
Resumé of a Hall of Famer
The Tigers traded Justin Verlander for a first ballot lock, but he’s moved into easy first ballot territory since joining the Astros. Only 11 pitchers have won three or more Cy Young awards.
The only players with more than three awards are Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux with four, Randy Johnson with five, and Roger Clemens with seven. As well as 2016, Verlander should have won in 2012 and 2018.
Verlander certainly had a strong case, but awards aren’t the end all be all.
Currently, Verlander leads all players in strikeouts with 3198.
Verlander already had 3428 strikeouts, if you count his 207 2/3 innings in the postseason. I don’t think it makes much sense to leave out postseason work for pitchers who play every year, especially if they pitched before the playoffs or when there were only league championships.
Obviously, some pitchers don’t get those opportunities for team reasons rather than personal ones. However, modern pitchers still have to pitch those innings and carry that extra uncredited workload into the offseason.
It’s all about horses
FanGraphs’ Hall of Fame guru Jay Jaffe will no doubt do a better job explaining Justin Verlander historical context through cross-era comparisons between the numbers.
Despite the numbers, they don’t tell the full story. It’s only by watching the games, watching a player’s whole career arc, that you can truly appreciate how special they are.
Fans of the Tigers have seen Justin Verlander’s whole career unfold, so we know the freakshow of his right arm and the fastball he throws. There aren’t many pitchers like him.
I don’t think it’s unbelievable that Nolan Ryan at peak threw as hard as Justin Verlander and that he kept that veil as long as he did. There’s no other arm with the combination of high velocity and durability that can outperform Verlander in this regard other than Ryan’s.
In Jim Leyland’s terms, if you had to figure out a statistic to measure the power and durability of pitchers over time, a “horse factor,” Verlander would be right up there. The things he’s done are pushing the limits of what people thought was physically possible in baseball.
It’s been a long road for Tigers fans. As their young ace sat comfortably at 93-95 mph in the early innings, he ramped up the velocity with each lineup he was facing until he was pumping it in there from the high 90’s to over 100 mph past 90 pitches, often throwing 120 pitches or more a game.
He hasn’t touched 100 mph since 2013, but the durability and elite velocity remain near the top of the league.