As of his start on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Justin Verlander has an ERA of 4.50 and a 4-4 record to show for the season. In relation to ERA, Verlander’s only full seasons worse than this year were in 2008 and 2014, when he had a 4.84 ERA and 4.54 ERA, respectively. Coincidentally, or maybe not so much, the 2008 and 2017 seasons rank among Verlander’s lowest for K/BB ratio. So, where does his overall ERA of 3.51 place him among starting pitchers that have already been admitted to the baseball shrine we call the “Hall of Fame?”
According to baseball-reference.com there have been 74 pitchers admitted to the Hall of Fame, and hypothetically, if Verlander were to be number 75, he would fall at 66th in reference to ERA. Ideal? No – but still in range. Regarding other statistics in this hypothetical situation, Verlander would place 63rd in total wins with 177, 55th in WAR with a score of 51.1 and 29th in strikeouts with 2272. Verlander’s past achievements certainly place him on the list of rarified pitchers with the potential to be enshrined in Cooperstown, but will he continue to dwindle in his effectiveness on the bump?
After years of utter dominance from 2006 to 2012, Verlander slowed down in 2013 and 2014 before coming to a screeching halt in 2015. Understandably, 2015 was disappointing after Verlander underwent abdominal surgery in the offseason, however, things were looking up when he bounced back in his 2016 campaign. Verlander seemed indomitable. He was the Verlander of old, albeit a more crafty and wizened version. His WHIP was the second lowest of his career and his K/BB ratio was the highest it had ever been. Tigers fans, myself included, felt that JV was back and for good.
Disappointingly, thus far this season, Verlander has not pitched like a Hall of Famer, let alone a number one starter. Despite this dismal outlook on Verlander’s season, there is still time to bounce back, so fear not Tigers’ fans. Verlander continues to show promise in his starts. Of his 14 starts this season, he has made it through five innings in every single one of them, excluding a start in which he left with groin tightness. Additionally JV has gone seven innings in five of those starts, so, regardless of runs allowed, Verlander has continued to be a workhorse.
It has become increasingly more difficult for pitchers to be admitted to the Hall of Fame. Since the year 2000, only 10 pitchers have been admitted, and in comparison, the 1990s alone admitted 12 pitchers. Verlander’s performance throughout the rest of this season could either cement his inclusion into the Hall of Fame, or nullify it. In Verlander’s favor is his longevity and fighting spirit. If Verlander ever hopes to secure his place among the greats in Cooperstown, he needs to couple physical durability with his fierce competitive nature.
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