When Justin Verlander and Ivan Rodriguez embraced after the Brewers had spent nine innings looking for a hit against the Tigers phenom, we knew that the Tigers truly had their first power pitcher since Jack Morris had graced the mound. On that evening against Milwaukee’s baseball best, Verlander pounded the Brewers with one fastball after another, resulting in 12 impressive strikeouts. Now, nearly four years after that impressive feat, the Verlander the Tigers see on the mound every fifth day is a pitcher that has the potential of pitching 27 straight outs every time.
When the Cleveland Indians greeted Verlander into the major leagues in 2005, the lanky pitcher decided that he was going to blow the ball by every batter he faced. The result was a bit of a mess as the bottom of the Indians order quickly caught on to JV’s plan and hit the young pitcher around. The Verlander from that first start up until the 2008 season thought his talent would always win. What he found out during that miserable 2008 season was that (much like the ’05 Indians discovered) a game plan can go a long way for a pitcher.
Throughout his career, JV has been practically in every scenario a pitcher can go through – from an overhyped team looking to keep fans and a struggling team looking to reach .500, to a playoff hopeful and a World Series participant. By throwing his second no-hitter, Verlander is in extremely rare territory – only 30 pitchers have ever accomplished such a feat. If Verlander were to somehow complete the feat again, he would join the likes of Cy Young, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan in legendary pitching lore. In an era where hitters have been valued more by the amount of balls they send into the outfield seats, Tigers fans should truly appreciate the skills of such a fantastic pitcher.
For Justin Verlander to finally break through and win the Cy Young this year, he’s going to need to continue to drop that ERA while showing why he’s the Tigers’ ace. While the Tigers may have a better early season Cy Young candidate on the arm of Max Scherzer, the fact is that last year’s voting proved that wins/losses do not determine the award winner. If Verlander proved anything though on Saturday evening, it was that personal achievements mean more when they come with the success of a team around him.