Justin Verlander
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Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander ready to throw his pitch, March 2, 2019 (cropped).jpg
Verlander with the Astros in 2019
Houston Astros - No. 35
Starting pitcher
Born: (1983-02-20) February 20, 1983 (age 36)
Manakin-Sabot, Virginia
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB debut
July 4, 2005, for the Detroit Tigers
MLB statistics
(through 2019 season)
Win-loss record225-131
Earned run average3.33
Strikeouts3,006
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Justin Brooks Verlander (born February 20, 1983) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball (MLB). He has also played in MLB for the Detroit Tigers.

From Manakin-Sabot, Virginia, Verlander attended Old Dominion University (ODU) and played college baseball for the Monarchs. He broke the Monarchs' and Colonial Athletic Association's career records for strikeouts. At the 2003 Pan American Games, Verlander helped lead the United States national team to a silver medal.

The Tigers selected Verlander with the second overall pick of the 2004 MLB draft. He made his major league debut with the Tigers in 2005, and played there for 12 years as the ace in their starting rotation, as a key figure in four consecutive American League (AL) Central division championships (from 2011 to 2014) and two AL Pennants (in 2006 and 2012). He is among the career pitching leaders for the Tigers, including ranking second in strikeouts (2,373), seventh in wins (183), and eighth in innings pitched (2,511). The Tigers traded Verlander to the Astros before the 2017 trade deadline, and he went undefeated in his first five starts heading into the postseason. He was named MVP, and was co-winner of the Babe Ruth Award as the Astros won the 2017 World Series. In 2018, Verlander became the 114th pitcher in major league history to earn 200 career wins, also becoming the 20th-fastest to reach the milestone (412 starts).[1] In 2019, Verlander became the sixth pitcher in MLB history to throw three career no-hitters[2] and struck out his 3,000th batter, becoming the 18th pitcher in major league history to do so.

Verlander is an eight-time MLB All-Star, and has led the AL in strikeouts five times, and in wins twice. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2006,[3] and in 2007 pitched the first no-hitter at Comerica Park, versus the Milwaukee Brewers.[4] In 2009, he led the AL in wins and strikeouts, both for the first time. Verlander produced his most successful season in 2011, including his second career no-hitter versus the Toronto Blue Jays.[5] By season's end, Verlander won the Pitching Triple Crown, the AL Cy Young Award unanimously, the AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award,[6] and the Sporting News Player of the Year Award.

Baseball career

Amateur career

Verlander's father Richard sent him to The Richmond Baseball Academy when he was young. He was able to throw his fastball 84 mph (135 km/h) shortly after joining the academy. His velocity plateaued at 86 mph (138 km/h) during his senior year at Goochland High School, during which he was sidetracked by strep throat.[7] Verlander's velocity reached 87 mph (140 km/h) during his first year at Old Dominion.

Old Dominion University

Verlander, a 6? 5", 200 pound (1.96 m, 91 kg) right-handed pitcher, played for the Old Dominion University baseball team for three years. On May 17, 2002, he struck out a then-school record 17 batters against James Madison. In 2003, he set a school single-season record by recording 139 strikeouts. In 2004, he broke his own record and established a new Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) record with 151 strikeouts. Verlander completed his career as the all-time strikeout leader at Old Dominion University, the CAA, and the Commonwealth of Virginia (Division I) history with 427 in 335 2/3 innings. During his three years, he averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings and his career collegiate earned run average (ERA) was 2.57.

2003: Silver medal at Pan American Games

Verlander pitched for the USA national baseball team in 2003 and helped the US to a silver medal in the Pan American Games. He was named CAA Rookie of the Year in 2002, and earned All-CAA honors in 2003 and 2004. Verlander was named the ODU Alumni Association's Male Athlete of the Year in 2004, and was the second overall pick in the 2004 Major League Baseball draft by the Detroit Tigers.

Minor leagues

Verlander's professional baseball career began when the Detroit Tigers selected him second overall in the 2004 MLB Draft. He signed a contract on October 25, 2004. Verlander made his professional debut in 2005. He played for two of Detroit's minor league affiliates: the Lakeland Flying Tigers (A+) and the Erie SeaWolves (AA), and also started two games for the Tigers in July. After posting a 9-2 record and a 1.67 ERA in 13 starts for Lakeland, Verlander joined the SeaWolves on June 20.

On July 4, 2005, Verlander started against the Cleveland Indians and pitched 5 1/3 innings, gave up four runs and was charged with a loss. He also made a start against the Minnesota Twins 19 days later. Verlander lost both of his major league starts in 2005, but in seven starts with Erie, he was 2-0 and his ERA was 0.28. Tightness in his right shoulder caused Verlander's season to end in early August when he was placed on the disabled list. Verlander was recognized as a Florida State League all-star, was a starting pitcher in the Futures Game and, according to Baseball America, was Detroit's highest rated prospect.[3]

Detroit Tigers

2005-2006: MLB debut and AL Rookie of the Year

Verlander made his MLB debut on July 4, 2005. He went 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in his only two starts of the season.

Verlander and his teammates celebrate after the final out of his first no-hitter.

He made the 2006 Tigers roster out of spring training. In his first full Major League season, Verlander went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA, striking out 124 batters in 186 innings. On July 4, 2006, at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California, Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and Fernando Rodney each threw multiple fastballs over 100 mph (160 km/h), becoming the first time in MLB history that three pitchers, on the same team, had done so during a game.[] He allowed one stolen base in 2006 and picked off seven baserunners. In 2006, he became the first rookie pitcher in the history of the game to win 10 games before the end of June and was named AL Rookie of the Year at the end of the season. During Game 1 of the 2006 World Series, Verlander was the Tigers starting pitcher against Anthony Reyes of the St. Louis Cardinals; it was the first instance in which two rookies faced off to start a World Series.[8] The Tigers would lose the series to the Cardinals in five games.

2007-2008: First no-hitter and All-Star Game

Verlander's success continued in 2007, as he accumulated 18 wins and posted a 3.66 ERA with 183 strikeouts in 201 2/3 innings. On June 12, Verlander recorded a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out 12 and walking four while throwing a fastball 102 mph (164 km/h).

Verlander pitching in 2008

In 2008, Verlander lost four consecutive games before winning his first one. He led MLB in losses with 17. Overall, he finished the 2008 season with an 11-17 win-loss record and a 4.84 ERA.[]

2009-2010: First-time major league wins and strikeouts leader

Verlander became the first Major League starter in 24 years to load the bases with nobody out in the ninth inning or later and get out of it without allowing a run when he pulled off the feat on July 24, 2009. Then-Mariners hurler Mike Moore was the last to do it, on September 16, 1985.[9]

He finished the 2009 season with a 19-9 record, an ERA of 3.45 and an MLB-leading 269 strikeouts, the most by a Tiger since Mickey Lolich's 308 in 1971,[10] while his 10.1/9 IP strikeout rate led all American League starters. His 19 wins led the majors this season. Verlander finished third in the AL Cy Young Award voting behind winner Zack Greinke and runner-up Félix Hernández.

In the offseason, Verlander and the Tigers reached a deal for a five-year, $80 million contract extension.[11] On July 3, Verlander earned his 10th win of the 2010 season. This marked the fourth time in five years he has had double digit wins before the All-Star break. On September 18, Verlander beat the Chicago White Sox, throwing a complete game to earn his 17th win of the season. Verlander was the first pitcher to win 17 games in four of his first five seasons since Dwight Gooden.[12] He finished the 2010 season with an 18-9 record and a 3.37 ERA, while fanning 219 batters in ​ innings.

2011: Second no-hitter, award-winning season

On April 22, 2011, Verlander recorded his 1,000th career strikeout in a 9-3 win over the White Sox, becoming the 15th Tiger to do so.[13] On May 7, he recorded his second career no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays, throwing four strikeouts, walking one batter and throwing at a maximum speed of 101 mph (163 km/h) on the radar gun. He carried a perfect game into the eighth inning before allowing a walk to J. P. Arencibia, who was the only Blue Jays batter to reach base in the game. Arencibia was erased on a double play, so Verlander faced the minimum 27 batters for the game.[5] He became the second Tigers pitcher since Virgil Trucks, and the 30th pitcher in the history of baseball, to throw multiple no-hitters. On his next start, against the Kansas City Royals on May 13, Verlander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before surrendering a triple. Altogether, he pitched ​ consecutive no-hit innings, spread over three starts.

On June 14, Verlander took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. He pitched ​ innings until he gave up a base hit to Cleveland's Orlando Cabrera. Verlander ended up with a complete game shutout allowing two hits. In his next start on June 19, he threw another complete game allowing only a solo home run to Ty Wigginton.[14] On June 25, he recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts against Arizona.[15] Verlander was selected to his fourth AL All-Star team, but he was unable to participate in the game due to the scheduling of his starts.

On July 31, Verlander took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels before surrendering a single to Maicer Izturis. He walked two and struck out nine. On August 11, Verlander won his 100th major league game against the Cleveland Indians. A victory on August 27 made Verlander the first Tiger since Bill Gullickson in 1991 to win 20 games, and the first Major League pitcher since Curt Schilling in 2002 to reach 20 wins before the end of August.[16]

Verlander in 2011

By the end of the season, Verlander had won the Triple Crown of pitching in the AL, leading the league in wins (24), strikeouts (250; tied for sixth most in Tigers history) and ERA (2.40).[17]Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw had clinched the National League (NL) Triple Crown earlier in the week, making it the first season since 1924 featuring a Triple Crown pitcher in both leagues. Verlander also led the AL in innings pitched (251) and win-loss percentage (.828; sixth-best in Tigers history),[18] while posting a Major League best 0.92 WHIP. Throughout the season, he never had an outing in which he threw fewer than six innings or 100 pitches. Through 2011, Verlander had the best career strikeouts/9 innings percentage in Tigers history (8.3), and the second-best career win-loss percentage (.652; also the fourth-best percentage of all active pitchers).[18][19]

In 2011, Verlander received the AL Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award, Sporting News Player of the Year Award, a Players Choice Award for Player the Year and Most Outstanding American League pitcher, and a USA Today American League Cy Young. Verlander was named the cover athlete of Major League Baseball 2K12.[20]

Verlander won both the 2011 AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP Award. He was the first pitcher to claim an AL MVP Award since Dennis Eckersley in 1992, the first starting pitcher to do so since Roger Clemens in 1986, and the fourth Tigers starter to do so in franchise history, joining Denny McLain (1968), Hal Newhouser (1944, 1968), and Willie Hernández (1984). Verlander unanimously won the 2011 AL Cy Young Award,[21] but won the AL MVP in a much closer vote. Verlander edged out Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, 280 points to 242 points, while collecting 13 of 28 first-place votes.[22] He became the second pitcher in baseball history after Don Newcombe to win the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP awards in his career.[23][24]

2012: Cy Young runner-up and All-Star

On May 18, 2012, Verlander took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates before giving up a one-out single in a 6-0 victory. It was his first career complete game one-hitter, his 16th complete game overall, and sixth career shutout. Verlander, who struck out 12 in the game, was hitting the upper-90s and 100 mph (160 km/h) into the eighth inning.[25]

Verlander was named to the American League team roster and AL starting pitcher[26] in the All-Star Game. Verlander was joined by teammates Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, the former voted as a starter.[27] At the All-Star break, Verlander had a 9-5 record and a 2.58 ERA in 18 games, and was leading the AL in innings pitched (132 2/3 ), strikeouts (128) and complete games (five). In a forgettable All-Star game, he pitched one inning and gave up five runs. Verlander finished the 2012 regular season with a 17-8 record. He ranked first in the American League in innings pitched (​), strikeouts (239) and complete games (six),[28] while also ranking second in ERA (2.64).

In the 2012 ALDS against the Oakland Athletics, Verlander started Game 1 and won a 3-1 decision. In the deciding fifth game of the series, he pitched a complete-game shutout allowing four hits as the Tigers won 6-0 and advanced to the 2012 ALCS. Verlander, who struck out 11 in each of his ALDS starts, became the first pitcher in MLB history to record more than 10 strikeouts in a winner-take-all postseason shutout.[29] Verlander's 22 strikeouts in the series set a record for an ALDS.[30]

Verlander made his only appearance in the 2012 ALCS in Game 3 against the New York Yankees. He earned a 2-1 win, blanking the Yankees hitters on two hits through eight innings before surrendering a leadoff home run in the ninth inning to Eduardo Núñez. Having given up one run in the first inning of Game 1 in the ALDS, and one run in the ninth inning of Game 3 in the ALCS, Verlander recorded 24 consecutive scoreless postseason innings in between.

He pitched Game 1 of the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants and gave up five earned runs in four innings pitched, including giving up two home runs to eventual World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval as the Tigers were swept in the Series.

Verlander finished second to David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays in a close AL Cy Young Award race. Verlander collected 149 points (12 first-place votes) to Price's 153 points (13 first-place votes).[31] Verlander won (tie with David Price) his second consecutive AL Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award.

2013

Prior to the 2013 season, Verlander and the Tigers reached an agreement on a seven-year, $180 million contract, with a $22 million vesting option for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young Award voting in 2019. This contract made him the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history.[32]

Verlander made his sixth-consecutive Opening Day start for the Tigers against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis and won 4-2.[33] In a May 11 game against the Cleveland Indians, Verlander recorded his 1,500th career strikeout.[34]

Verlander was selected as a reserve pitcher for the American League All-Star team by his manager, Jim Leyland, who managed the 2013 AL team. It was Verlander's sixth All-Star selection, but due to him starting a game on July 14 for the Tigers, he was declared unavailable for the July 16 All-Star game. Entering the All-Star break, Verlander had a 10-6 record, 125 strikeouts and a 3.50 ERA.[35]

Verlander finished the 2013 regular season with a 13-12 record, a 3.46 ERA, and 217 strikeouts. His ​ innings pitched were the lowest total since his 2008 season.[]

In Game 2 of the 2013 ALDS, Verlander struck out 11 Oakland Athletics hitters in seven shutout innings. Verlander did not get the win as the Tigers lost the game, 1-0, in the bottom of the ninth inning. In Game 5 of the same series, Verlander pitched eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts in a 3-0 victory, taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning. The win sent the Tigers to the American League Championship Series for the third consecutive year.[36] Verlander defeated the Athletics in Game 5 of the ALDS for the second straight season and is one of four starting pitchers in Major League history to have multiple wins in elimination postseason games, joining Bob Gibson, Chris Carpenter and Matt Cain.[37]

Verlander has thrown 30 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason against the Athletics, a major league record for a pitcher versus one team, surpassing Christy Mathewson's 28 scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Athletics from 1905-11. Verlander is the second pitcher in Major League history with 10 or more strikeouts and zero runs allowed in back-to-back postseason games, joining Sandy Koufax in Games 5 and 7 of the 1965 World Series.[37]

In Game 3 of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, Verlander threw ​ scoreless innings (running his 2013 postseason scoreless streak to ​ innings) before surrendering a solo home run to Mike Napoli in the seventh. Despite giving up only that one run and striking out ten batters in eight innings, Verlander lost a 1-0 decision. It was Verlander's sixth career postseason game with 10 or more strikeouts, more than any other pitcher in MLB postseason history.[38][39]

The eventual World Series champ Red Sox eliminated the Tigers in six ALCS games. In the 2013 postseason, Verlander was 1-1 with a 0.39 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 23 postseason innings. The Tiger offense was shut out in two of his three starts.[]

2014

On January 9, 2014, Verlander underwent core muscle surgery. The Tigers projected that Verlander might miss Opening Day in the aftermath of his surgery but he eventually recovered just in time for when pitchers and catchers reported to training camp in February, 2014.[40] On March 16, Tiger manager Brad Ausmus announced that Verlander would make his seventh consecutive opening-day start on March 31.[41] On April 12, Verlander got the first two hits of his major league career during a 6-2 road win over the San Diego Padres. This snapped a career 0-for-26 string.[42]

Verlander struggled in the first half of 2014. His strikeouts were down to 6.8 per nine innings pitched, opposed to an average of 9.2 over the last five years.[43] His ERA and WHIP in the season's first half were also elevated to 4.71 and 1.49 respectively.[44] Verlander was not named to the AL All-Star team for the first time since 2008, snapping a streak of five straight appearances.[45]

On August 11, in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Verlander allowed five runs, four earned, on four hits in only one inning. Verlander left the game with right shoulder soreness, in his shortest outing of his career. His previous shortest outing was ​ innings in 2008.[46][47] Verlander would miss his next start, the first time that had occurred in his career.

Justin fared somewhat better in the second half of 2014. His season ERA and WHIP dropped to 4.54 and 1.398, respectively. He won his final three decisions to finish with a 15-12 record, and the Tigers won the game in 6 of his last 8 starts.[48] Justin's strikeout rate remained low, however, as he finished with 159 strikeouts and a 6.9 K/9 IP rate, both the lowest since his 2006 rookie season. He mentioned in 2018 that he had not fully recovered from the core surgery during the 2014 season, contributing to production inferior to his career norms.[49]

2015

Verlander started the 2015 season on the disabled list due to a right triceps strain, ending his streak of seven consecutive Opening Day starts for the Tigers. This marked the first time Verlander had been placed on the DL in his major league career, following 298 career starts and 1,978 innings pitched.[50][51] Verlander has thrown more pitches than any other pitcher since his rookie season in 2006, with 32,535 pitches in the regular season, and 1,688 pitches in the postseason.[52]

On May 31, Verlander was sent to the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens for a rehab assignment. It was his first time ever pitching for the Mud Hens, having gone straight from Double-A to the major leagues in 2005. He threw 79 pitches, 50 for strikes, allowing six hits and two walks in ​ innings.[53] He fared better in his second rehab start on June 6, lasting ​ innings and throwing 93 pitches (69 for strikes). He gave up just one unearned run on four hits and no walks while striking out nine batters.[54] Verlander made his season debut with the Tigers on June 13 against the Cleveland Indians. He pitched five innings, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks, while striking out two. He left the game with a 3-2 lead, but got a no-decision as the Indians came back against the Tiger bullpen to win the game.[55] In his next start on June 19, Verlander gave up Alex Rodriguez's 3,000th career hit, a home run.

On August 26, Verlander came within three outs of his third career no-hitter before allowing a double to Chris Iannetta, the first batter in the ninth inning. He finished the game with one hit, two walks, and nine strikeouts in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This was his seventh career complete game shutout, and second career complete game one-hitter.[56] Verlander finished 2015 with a 5-8 record in 20 starts, but his other stats were a considerable improvement over the previous season. He had a 3.38 ERA and 1.088 WHIP. His walk rate dropped to 2.2, while his strikeout rate inched back up to 7.6.

2016: Cy Young runner-up, American League strikeout leader and 2,000 career strikeouts

Verlander at Camden Yards in Baltimore in 2016

On May 8, Verlander recorded his 1,981st strikeout in his Tiger career, surpassing Jack Morris for second place on the list of all-time Tiger strikeout leaders. He only trails Mickey Lolich, who had 2,679 strikeouts as a Tiger.[57][58] On May 18, Verlander fanned Eddie Rosario of the Twins for his 2,000th career strikeout, becoming just the second Tigers pitcher to reach the milestone, following Lolich.[59] Verlander went into the 2016 All-Star break with an 8-6 record, 4.07 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 120 strikeouts in ​ innings (9.2 K/9).

Verlander was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for July. He was 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in six July starts, holding opposing hitters to a .171 average and striking out 48 batters in ​ innings. Among qualifying starters in the AL (minimum 28.0 innings pitched), Verlander finished July first in strikeouts, tied for first in innings pitched, third in ERA and tied for third in wins. Verlander allowed just 26 hits in his ​ July innings, and had a 0.891 WHIP.[60] On September 27, Verlander struck out 12 Cleveland Indians batters to give him a career-high eight games this season in which he totaled 10 or more strikeouts.[61] Verlander was among the best starters in the majors after the 2016 All-Star Break. From July 15 on, Justin compiled an 8-3 record, 1.96 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 134 strikeouts in ​ innings. In his three losses, the Tigers scored a total of two runs.

Verlander finished the 2016 season with a 16-9 record, while recording 254 strikeouts to lead the American League for the fourth time in his career. He also finished first in the AL with a 1.00 WHIP, and his 3.04 ERA ranked second. His strikeout rate of 10.0 per 9 IP was the second-best of his career, trailing only the 10.1/9 rate posted in 2009. His 4.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio was a career best and a Tiger record for a season, eclipsing the 4.44 mark set by Denny McLain in the 1968 Detroit Tigers season. Verlander joined Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens as the only three American League pitchers in history to strike out 250 or more batters in a season after turning 33 years old. Verlander's 26 quality starts were tied for the AL lead (with former Tiger Rick Porcello).[62] He threw 3,668 pitches, more than any other major league pitcher.[63]

Following the season, Verlander was named a Gold Glove Award finalist at pitcher, along with R.A. Dickey and Dallas Keuchel. Verlander's five Defensive Runs Saved tied him for fourth among AL pitchers, as did his 29 assists. His 6.61 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) led all AL pitchers.[64] Verlander won his third Tiger of the Year award, as awarded by the Detroit Chapter of the BBWAA.[65]

Following the season, Verlander was announced by the BBWAA as a finalist for the American League Cy Young Award, along with Corey Kluber and former teammate Rick Porcello.[66] Verlander finished second in Cy Young voting, losing to Porcello by five points, 132-137, in what was the second-closest vote in history (to the 2012 AL Cy Young race Verlander lost). Verlander received 14 first-place votes, to Porcello's eight first-place votes, but Verlander was left off two ballots. It marked the third time in history and first in the AL that a pitcher won the Cy Young Award without receiving the most first-place votes.[67] The outcome of the vote inspired Verlander's longtime girlfriend, actress and model Kate Upton, to tweet "Hey @MLB I thought I was the only person allowed to fuck Justin Verlander?!"[68]

2017

In a win over the Chicago White Sox on April 4, 2017, Verlander tied a franchise record for the most strikeouts on Opening Day with ten, becoming the first Tigers player to do so since Mickey Lolich in 1970.[69] In his 51st plate appearance in interleague play, Verlander recorded his first career RBI in an August 30 game against the Colorado Rockies, which was also his last game as a Tiger.[70]

Houston Astros

Verlander with the Astros in 2018

Rest of 2017: ALCS MVP, World Series championship

Seconds before the waiver trade deadline on August 31, the Tigers sent Verlander to the Houston Astros for prospects Franklin Pérez, Jake Rogers, and Daz Cameron.[71] Verlander won his Astros debut on September 5 against the Seattle Mariners, giving up one run and striking out seven over six innings.[72] He started and won the AL West division-clinching game for the Astros on September 17, allowing one run and striking out ten Mariners batters over seven innings.[73] He won all five of his regular season starts with Houston, posting a 1.06 ERA and 0.65 WHIP in those games.[74] The Astros chose to skip Verlander's final scheduled start on Sunday, October 1, and have him start the first game of the ALDS.[74] Thus, Verlander finished the 2017 regular season with a 15-8 record, 3.36 ERA, 1.175 WHIP, and 219 strikeouts in 206 innings. He threw 3,531 pitches, more than any other major league pitcher for the second consecutive year.[63]

After a couple of injury-riddled seasons, many believed Verlander had lost the fastball velocity most fans had grown accustomed to. However, the velocity soared back up to an average of 95.3 in his 2017 campaign, four miles per hour faster than his average in 2014 (91.2), and three MPH faster than his average in 2015 (92.3). He also hit triple digits on the radar gun in 2017 for the first time since his 2013 campaign.

Verlander won two games in the Astros' 3-games-to-1 ALDS triumph over the Boston Red Sox. He started and won Game 1, and picked up the second win with ​ innings of relief in the clinching Game 4.[75] On October 14, he started Game 2 of the ALCS versus the Yankees, throwing a 13-strikeout, 2-1 complete game victory. The Astros won the game on a ninth-inning walk-off double by shortstop Carlos Correa that drove home second baseman José Altuve.[76] With the Astros facing elimination in Game 6 of the ALCS, Verlander pitched seven shutout innings in a 7-1 victory over the Yankees.[77] The Astros went on to defeat the Yankees in Game 7, allowing them to advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history. During the ALCS, Verlander went 2-0, with a 0.56 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched. Following his outstanding performance, he was named the ALCS MVP.[78]

Verlander received a no-decision in Game 2 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the third time he participated in a World Series. He allowed only two hits in six innings, but both hits were home runs, and he left the game with the Astros trailing 3-1. The Astros eventually won the game 7-6 in 11 innings.[79] With a chance to clinch the series in Game 6, Verlander gave up three hits and two runs while striking out nine batters in six innings, but was tagged with the loss in a 3-1 final. It was the first time in his career that Verlander failed to win a series-clinching game in the postseason, having gone 3-0 in his three previous chances. It was also his first loss as a member of the Astros.[80] The Astros defeated the Dodgers the next night in Game 7, giving Verlander his first World Series championship.[81][82]

For the 2017 postseason, Verlander made six appearances and five starts, being credited with a 4-1 record, and gaining a 2.21 ERA, .177 batting average against, eight walks, and 38 strikeouts in ​ innings. Along with Jose Altuve, Verlander was also named winner of the Babe Ruth Award as co-MVPs of the 2017 postseason.[83]

2018: 200 career wins, 2,500 strikeouts, Cy Young runner-up

On March 5, 2018, Verlander was named the opening day starter for the Astros. This was his 10th career opening day start and first with Houston.[84] He started and won on March 29 versus Cole Hamels of the Texas Rangers, pitching six shutout innings and striking out five.[85]

Unlike in previous seasons, Verlander started masterfully in 2018, leading an Astros rotation that began the season as the most dominant in the major leagues. In April, Verlander went 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 40 innings. He was named the AL Player of the Week on April 17; in 15 innings over two starts that week, he struck out 20 and allowed a .100 opponents' batting average.[86]

On May 1, Verlander struck out 14 Yankees, tying his career high, over eight shutout innings in Houston.[87] On May 16, Verlander threw a complete game shutout against the Los Angeles Angels for his eighth career shutout and 24th complete game. He struck out Shohei Ohtani in the top of the ninth inning for his 2,500th career strikeout, becoming the 33rd pitcher in Major League history to reach the milestone. He was second among active leaders in strikeouts behind CC Sabathia.[88]

12 games into the 2018 season, Verlander led the AL in 17 different catorgies, most notably: ERA (1.11), Wins (7), Innings Pitched (81.1), WAR for pitchers (3.3), WHIP (0.713), H/9 Innings (4.8) and BAA (.153).[89] Verlander was named AL Pitcher of the Month for May, his fifth such award. In six starts, he produced a 0.86 ERA and .437 OPS against, allowed nine extra base hits, while striking out 50 over ​ innings. He started and ended the month by dominating the Yankees--the only lineup in baseball with an OPS over .800--with 20 strikeouts and only one run allowed in ​ innings.[90]

On July 8, Verlander was named to his seventh All-Star Game, and his first with the Astros. However, Verlander made his scheduled start on the Sunday before the All-Star Game, and did not pitch in the game.[91]

On August 19, Verlander went ​ innings striking out six and giving up four earned runs in a crucial 9-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics. The win was Verlander's 200th career win, becoming the 114th pitcher (and third active pitcher) to reach the milestone, and only the 20th pitcher in Major League history to do so in 412 starts or fewer.[1]

On September 10, in his first start in Detroit since being traded, Verlander got the win while allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings pitched. He struck out 10 Tigers batters, giving him 258 strikeouts this season. Verlander and Gerrit Cole became the first teammates to strike out at least 250 batters in the same season since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002. Verlander was given many standing ovations during his outing, and Comerica Park played a tribute video showing highlights of his 13 seasons as a Tiger.[92] Verlander tied his career high of 269 strikeouts in a season with an 11-strikeout performance in a 5-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 16. Verlander subsequently set a new career high the next game in a 10-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on September 22. Verlander struck out 11 in six innings while only giving up one hit, stretching his career high to 280 strikeouts. Verlander also helped set a new Major League record for the Astros with their 1,069th strikeout by their starters in a season, breaking the mark set by the Cleveland Indians in 2017.[93]

Verlander finished the 2018 season with a 16-9 record in 214 innings pitched, and posted a 2.52 ERA with a career-high 290 strikeouts. He posted his lowest ERA since his American League MVP and Cy Young Award-winning 2011 season and led the AL in strikeouts for the fifth time in his career. Verlander also led the major leagues with a 0.902 WHIP and a 7.84 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. His 1.6-per-9 IP walk rate was the lowest of his career. He had the highest fly ball percentage among major league pitchers (51.4%).[94] He finished the season with four straight games in which he struck out 10+ batters, giving him a career best 13 games this season with double-digit strikeouts.[95]

In Game 1 of the ALDS, Verlander earned the win, allowing two runs in ​ innings and striking out seven against the Cleveland Indians. The Astros earned a three-game sweep over the Indians, and moved on to face the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. Verlander started and won Game 1 of the ALCS in Fenway Park, allowing two runs and two hits in six innings pitched. Verlander lost Game 5 of the ALCS with his team down three games to one, surrendering four runs in six innings. It marked the first time in his career that he lost a postseason elimination game.[96]

In the 2018 AL Cy Young Award voting announced on November 14, Verlander finished second to Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays by 15 points (169-154). Verlander received 13 first-place votes to Snell's 17. This was Verlander's third Cy Young runner-up finish, and sixth time finishing in the top five.[97]

2019: Third no-hitter, 3,000 strikeouts

On March 24, 2019, Verlander and the Astros agreed on a two-year, $66 million contract extension to keep Verlander with Houston through the 2021 season.[98] Verlander made his 11th career opening day start on March 28, earning a 5-1 victory against reigning Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and the Tampa Bay Rays.[99]

On June 1, Verlander threw eight innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts in a 5-1 win over the Oakland Athletics in Oakland. In doing so, Verlander passed Cy Young on the all-time MLB strikeouts list and finished the night with 2,809 career strikeouts. He struck out seven in his next outing against the Chicago White Sox to move into the top 20 on the all-time strikeouts list, surpassing Mike Mussina's total of 2,813.

On June 12, in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Verlander struck out a career-high 15 batters, 14 of them swinging, in just seven innings, but got a no-decision as the Astros lost the game in extra innings.[100] On June 18, Verlander struck out eight Cincinnati Reds batters to move past Mickey Lolich for 19th place on the all-time strikeouts list.

Verlander was named to the American League All-Star team for the eighth time in his career. At the time of the selection, Verlander had a 10-3 record, 2.86 ERA, 147 strikeouts and an MLB-leading 0.794 WHIP.[101] Verlander was selected as the starting pitcher for the All-Star game for the second time in his career on July 9. He pitched one inning and retired all three batters he faced, two on strikeouts.[102]

On July 30, Verlander struck out 13 batters over 7 innings of two-hit ball in a 2-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland. The win was his first in Cleveland since June 21, 2014 and his fourth consecutive win in his last four starts. He also surpassed 2,900 career strikeouts in the game, finishing his night at 2,902.[103]

On August 4, Verlander struck out 10 batters over 6 innings in a 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. With the 10-K performance, Verlander surpassed 200 strikeouts in a season for the ninth time in his career. He joined Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez, and Bob Gibson as the only pitchers with 9 or more seasons of 200+ strikeouts. All but Clemens are in the Hall of Fame.[104]

On August 16, Verlander struck out 11 batters over 7 innings against the Oakland A's. It was his sixth consecutive start with 10+ strikeouts, setting an Astros franchise record and becoming the first pitcher to achieve this since Max Scherzer and Chris Sale in 2017. In combination with his prior start against the Baltimore Orioles on August 11, Verlander now has more strikeouts than innings pitched in his career.

On August 21, Verlander lost to the Detroit Tigers, 2-1, despite allowing no walks and only two hits, both of them solo home runs, over nine innings. He is the only pitcher other than Mike Mussina (1998) known to have pitched a complete game loss without ever throwing a pitch with a runner on base. Verlander also had 11 strikeouts in the game, the seventh straight game in which he recorded double-digit strikeouts.[105]

On September 1, in a road game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Verlander threw his third career no-hitter. Verlander allowed one base-runner, a walk to Cavan Biggio in the first inning, and struck out 14 batters. The Astros' only runs came on a two-run home run by Abraham Toro in the top of the ninth inning. This was Verlander's second career no-hitter against the Blue Jays, making him just the third pitcher of the modern era to no-hit the same team twice, and the first to pitch both no hitters against the same team on the road. He is the sixth pitcher ever to throw three or more no-hitters in their career.[106]

On September 28, in his final start of the 2019 regular season, Verlander struck out Kole Calhoun in the bottom of the 4th inning against the Los Angeles Angels for his 3,000th career strikeout, becoming the 18th pitcher in history to strike out 3,000 hitters.[] Verlander would then strike Calhoun out again in the bottom of the 6th for his 300th strikeout of the season, a new career high. Verlander, along with teammate Gerrit Cole became the first pair of starting pitchers to strikeout 300+ hitters in the same season since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling achieved the feat in 2002 for the Arizona Diamondbacks.[]

Verlander finished the 2019 season 21-6 with 300 strikeouts and a 2.58 ERA in 223 innings pitched. He finished first in MLB in innings pitched and games started for the fourth time in his career, first in wins for the third time in his career, and first in WHIP for the third time in his career. His 0.803 WHIP was the lowest in a major league season since Pedro Martínez posted a 0.737 WHIP in 2000. Verlander also led the American League with a 7.14 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He was also first in MLB in WAR for pitchers (7.8) and lowest hits per nine innings (5.529).[107] Batters hit .171 against him, the lowest batting average in the major leagues, and his left on base percentage of 88.4% was the best in the majors.[108][109] He allowed the highest fly ball percentage of all major league pitchers (45.2%).[110]

During the top of the second inning of game 2 of the 2019 World Series, Verlander recorded the 200th postseason strikeout of his career setting a new major league record, surpassing the previous record of 199 set by John Smoltz.[111][112] He finished the game with six strikeouts, seven hits and four earned runs in six innings in a 12-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. With the loss, he became the first pitcher in major league history to lose his first five World Series decisions.[113]

Pitching style

Verlander throws four pitches: a hard four-seam fastball averaging 94-95 mph (topping out at 102[114]), a slider in the mid-to-high 80s, a 12-6 curveball around 80, and a changeup at 85-88 mph.[115] His four-seam fastball has an "elite" spin rate of over 2500 rpm according to Statcast, giving it a late "tailing" action that cuts inside to righties and away from lefties. He often uses his four-seam fastball up in the zone to hitters. This has allowed him to strike out more batters with that pitch than any others. His slider has evolved throughout his career. In his early years, his slider was in the mid-80s with a larger break. However, in recent years, Verlander has added velocity to his slider. This change has caused a later, sharper break that has led many to believe it is actually a cutter, although Verlander has denied this on various occasions. In 2017, Verlander began to incorporate both sliders. He usually throws the slower, longer slider under the hands of lefties, and the sharper, faster slider down and away to righties. His 12-6 curveball has always been a dominant pitch that buckles hitters' knees at any point in the count. He also intentionally uses this pitch up in the zone at times to freeze hitters or throw off their timing. Since the 2016 season, Verlander has essentially become a three-pitch pitcher (fastball, slider, curveball). His changeup has been used almost exclusively against left-handed batters in recent years, and its usage has dropped considerably. The changeup accounted for 8.5 percent of his pitches in 2016, only 4 percent of his pitches in 2017, and less than 2 percent of his pitches in 2018.

Verlander is known for his unusual ability to "add" and "subtract" from his fastball velocity at any point in the game, giving him the ability to throw it in the upper 90s even in the late innings of games. Since 2008, Verlander has thrown pitches of over 100+ mph in the 8th inning or later 44 times, 39 more times than James Paxton who is second on the list.[114][116] This is despite the fact that he has thrown the most pitches in the major leagues since the beginning of the 2008 season.[117] After a couple of injury prone seasons, many believed Verlander had lost the velocity most fans had grown accustomed to. However, Verlander's velocity soared back up to an average of 95.3 in his 2017 campaign, 4 miles per hour faster than his average in 2014 (91.2), and 3 MPH faster than his average in 2015 (92.3). Verlander's average fastball velocity with no strikes is 94.7 mph, while with two strikes it is 97.0 mph.[118]

Due to the changing nature of how pitchers are used in baseball, Verlander is considered by many to be the last of the old school power pitchers.[119][120] He is also considered to be a higher-than average fly ball pitcher. Throughout his career, Verlander has consistently been near or at the top of the league in innings pitched, leading the league in 2009, 2011,2012, and 2019. He has finished in the Top 10 in innings pitched 9 times (2009-13, 2016-19) and has the most 200+ innings pitched seasons of any current player with 11.[121] His power pitching frequently leads to high strikeout totals. He is a five-time American League strikeout champion (2009, 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2018), and led all of major league baseball in three of those five seasons (2009, 2011 and 2012).[122] He has fanned over 3,000 batters in his career, one of only 18 pitchers in history to reach that total. Following the 2019 retirement of CC Sabathia, Verlander is now the only active pitcher with at least 3,000 career strikeouts.

Charity work

In 2016, Verlander started the "Wins For Warriors Foundation" for veterans of the United States military.[123] The "Wins For Warriors Foundation" campaign raised $246,311 to help Houston recover from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.[124] To date, Verlander has donated over 1 million dollars to this cause.[125] Verlander has also supported various local Detroit charities for the impoverished as well as helping out with national efforts such as the Red Cross.[]

Personal life

Verlander with wife Kate Upton (left) in 2019

Verlander grew up in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia, with his parents, Richard and Kathy Verlander, and a younger brother, Ben Verlander. His life experiences and the story of his development are outlined in his parents' 2012 book, Rocks Across the Pond: Lessons Learned, Stories Told.[126] His younger brother, Ben, played for the Tigers organization as an outfielder.[127][128] Ben was released on June 23, 2017.[129]

Verlander started dating model-actress Kate Upton in early 2014, and in 2016 the couple got engaged.[130] In the 2014 iCloud leaks of celebrity photos, many of Verlander's personal pictures, which included nude pictures of both himself and Upton, as well as other women, were leaked online.[131] On November 4, 2017, two days after he won the World Series with the Astros, the two married in a medieval church in Tuscany, Italy, overlooking the Montalcino valley.[132] On July 14, 2018, they announced that Kate was pregnant with their first child. The couple had a daughter, Genevieve, later that year.[133]

During the off-season, Verlander lives in Lakeland, Florida, which is also home to the Tigers' spring training facility. The Astros' spring training facility is located in West Palm Beach.[134]

Awards and accolades

  • 15th in 2006 American League MVP voting (the highest of any rookie and second highest of any pitcher - Johan Santana was 7th)
  • Became first Tigers pitcher since Denny McLain in 1968 (31-6, .838) to lead the American League in winning percentage and qualify for an ERA title (18-6, .750) in 2007. He did it again in 2011 (24-5, .828).
  • Only pitcher in Major League history to win Rookie of the Year, start in a World Series game, throw a no-hitter, and be an All-Star in his first two seasons[137]
  • One of only two players to win the Rookie of the Year Award, Cy Young Award, and the MVP Award; the other is Don Newcombe
  • Major League Baseball 2K12 cover athlete
  • Third in 2009 American League Cy Young Award voting
  • 2012 AL Cy Young Award runner-up
  • 2016 AL Cy Young Award runner-up
  • 2018 AL Cy Young Award runner-up

See also

References

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  132. ^ Marcus, Emily (November 4, 2017). "Kate Upton and Justin Verlander marry in Italy: Details!". US Weekly. Retrieved 2017.
  133. ^ "Kate Upton Is Pregnant! Supermodel and Justin Verlander Are Expecting Their First Child Together". People. Retrieved 2018.
  134. ^ "Houston Astros Spring Training Information". MLB Advanced Media, LP. Retrieved 2017.
  135. ^ Verlander unanimous Tiger of the Year - Ace first Detroit pitcher to win award since Sparks in 2001 MLB, November 12, 2009
  136. ^ Tigers Awards Archived July 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine (Tiger of the Year award winners are listed on bottom half of page). Detroit Tigers official website. MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Retrieved November 19, 2009.
  137. ^ Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers agree to five-year, $80 million contract ESPN February 4, 2010

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