Remember in 2014 when many thought Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander was finished? He couldn’t seem to take the mound without giving up a plethora of runs, and the losses continued to mount. He told the fanbase to be patient expressing that his “stuff” was close to being back to where we were used to seeing it; he was right.
Recently former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus returned to Detroit as the bench boss of the Angels to a showering of boos. Tonight when Justin Verlander takes the bump as a member of the Houston Astros it will be very different. Expect a thunderous cheer as Verlander emerges from the visiting dugout to start the bottom of the first inning. Well, I use the term thunderous a bit loosely, the Tigers are not drawing much of a crowd of late, but Verlander should bring a few more folks out to the game.
The only thing Justin Verlander was unable to accomplish in Detroit was to reward the city and its fans a World Series title. It’s a team sport, it shouldn’t all be put on him, but his World Series statistics are quite appalling. Verlander is 0-4 in five career WS starts with an elevated 5.67 ERA. In 27 innings of work he’s allowed 23 hits, 17 earned runs while striking out 30. The rest of his postseason stats are pretty incredible recording a 13-3 record with a remarkable 2.67 ERA. I always considered Verlander as a big game pitcher but is he?
The other two things that come to mind when I think back to the two more recent World Series appearances is the Tigers pitchers forgetting how to throw to first base against the Cardinals, and the ice-cold bats against the Giants.
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Looking back at those teams’ especially the one with Verlander, Max Scherzer & David Price making up the top of the rotation, how on earth did they not win a championship? It still stings, it stings more than when the Red Wings lost to the Penguins in 2009. At least the Wings were able to win a title the year before; we haven’t been able to celebrate a Tigers championship since 1984. Thirty-five years is a long drought, especially when a championship caliber team is nowhere in sight.
Verlander was able to pitch his way through about two years of constant struggles in 2014 & 2015. The often durable right-hander spend much of 2015 on the shelf with a core injury. It was a drastic decline from his 24-5, 2011 season where he won the Cy Young & league MVP. Many times pitchers in their 30s struggle to rebound once they start to lose it; not everyone is Greg Maddux or Nolan Ryan, but Justin Verlander is proving to be.
Justin has rejuvenated his career, remember when many thought his 28-million dollar per year salary was an anchor that couldn’t be moved? He just signed a 2-year 66-million dollar extension with the Astros, leaving him under contract until 2021. He’s made 8 starts thus far in 2019, he owns a 6-1 record with a 2.51 ERA, he’s fanned 68 batters, and his WHIP is unbelievable at 0.820. To compare, in 2011 his WHIP was 0.920.
He remains the ace of the Houston Astros; he’s got it all. The World Series title that most Detroit Tigers fans were hoping he’d win after he was dealt to the Astros, all of the accolades there are to win as a pitcher, oh and he’s got the girl! Enjoy the 36-year-old right-hander tonight because you never know when the last time he will pitch at Comerica Park will be. It’s likely he will toe the rubber again, but you never know.
There is no guarantee his spot in the rotation will come up again when Houston comes to town. But let me leave you with this; he’ll be 39 when his lucrative deal expires. By then the top of the Detroit Tigers rotation will have the current MLB’s top pitching prospect Casey Mize and hopefully Matt Manning & Alex Faedo. Justin Verlander would make for a tremendous mentor if the team feels they are ready to compete for a title, just saying.