Sep 6, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches in the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Starting Pitcher #3 – Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander debuted with the Tigers in 2005 as a 22-year-old kid who could throw the ball 100 mph without hardly trying. His arm remained special for the last decade, but what has made Verlander a truly great pitcher was his ability to harness his raw stuff and become a dominant four-pitch pitcher.
Verlander turns 33 years old in February and seems to be definitively past his peak, but his five-year run from 2009 to 2013 was something to behold. He made the American League All-Star team each year, fished in the top-three of the Cy Young Award voting three times (winning one) and took home an AL MVP Award as well.
During that stretch he averaged 234 innings per season, was credited with a win in two-thirds of his decisions, posted a 3.02 ERA, and struck out more than a batter per inning. He was, quite simply, the best pitcher in the game for a half decade.
Currently third on the Tigers’ all-time strikeout list, Verlander is poised to pass Jack Morris early next season (he’s only 37 strikeouts behind), but from there it would be another 700 to pass Mickey Lolich. With four guaranteed years left on his contract, he stands a good chance of at least challenging that mark.
Now in the third act of his career, it’s not known if Verlander will be able to make another run at a Cy Young award or ever again be known as a shut-down ace, but he doesn’t need to prove anything else to justify his position as one of the top pitchers in franchise history.
Next: Starting Pitcher #4