How is this a thing in 2016?
Know what is a thing?
Justin Verlander is very good again, and on the cusp of Cy Young contention. It's a story that deserves more attention.
Actually, that's a little misleading. Save for a 30-start stretch across the 2014-2015 seasons, Justin Verlander has been very good for a very long time. Last year is considered a lost season for Verlander as arm woes limited him to 20 starts. But despite a desultory 5-8 record, Verlander's abbreviated season was quite productive: His adjusted ERA was about 18% lower than the league average, while most of his peripherals (FIP, H/9, BB/9, BB/K) were as good or better than his career averages (the lone exception being a mediocre-for-Verlander 7.6 K/9, which was about 10% lower than his career average).
If Verlander has caught many observers by surprise this season, it's probably because they stopped paying attention to him after a dreadful start to last season (his ERA stood at a gruesome 5.05 after nine starts). But Verlander's line down the stretch last year was about as good as any pitcher not named Greinke, Arrieta or Kershaw: Over his final 11 starts, Verlander pitched to a 2.12 ERA, averaging about a strikeout per inning while walking about two batters per nine.
All of which is to say, Justin Verlander didn't really go anywhere -- even if it seemed like he was damaged goods. After a slow start his year, Detroit's horse is healthy again, and has reclaimed his status as one of the AL's most formidable pitchers. As of this writing, he's second in the league in IP, SO, and WHIP; he's currently sixth in pitcher WAR (4.3), two dominant starts from cracking the top-three (where he'll find his young rotation mate Michael Fulmer). Since the beginning of July, Verlander has been brilliant: Over 68.2 innings, he's held opponents to a .179/.238/.301 batting line, struck out four batters for every one he's walked, and pitched to an ERA of 1.97.
Verlander's had to make some concessions to age -- he no longer brings 100 MPH into the ninth inning. But he hasn't yet conceded his status as one of the premiere pitchers in the league. His return to form as Detroit battles for a spot in the post-season is a bigger story than a closer on an extended hot streak.
Last edited: August 24, 2016. 5:48 PM ET
Photo: Keith Allison. CC BY