Justin Verlander was unwordly good for the Detroit Tigers last year, but it’s not his fault that he isn’t quite putting together the same won-loss numbers this year. He’s having another superb season, but the Tigers are not.
By mid-season of 2011 the Tigers were starting to run away with the American League Central Division. One minute it was close, the next minute it was all Tigers. The Tigers have not been showing the same consistency this year and while they aren’t completely buried in a weak division, they aren’t exerting themselves either.
This is more than slightly surprising. The Tigers looked like the biggest lock as a division champ in baseball going into the 2012 season. The Tigers won 95 games last year. Going into Wednesday night’s play Detroit was 36-38 with a losing record at home and away. The Tigers are just not scoring runs the way they did.
One reason Detroit was such a heavy favorite to win the division was the addition of Prince Fielder to the roster, one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. Fielder came aboard and has been hitting like his usual self after departing the Milwaukee Brewers and the National League. He’s not the problem.
It was a big problem when Victor Martinez, who batted .330 with 103 RBIs last year, hurt a knee in the off-season. He was pronounced out for the year and hasn’t played a minute yet this season. The potentially good news for the Tigers is that upon further review Martinez may make it back into the lineup before the end of the year and beef up the sorely lacking designated hitter spot.
Last year Verlander won the American League Cy Young Award and in a rare double play also won the Most Valuable Player award. He pretty much led the league in everything from wins (24) to earned run average (2.40), from innings pitched (251) to strikeouts (250), plus games started (34). His record was a ridiculous 24-5, which also represented a league-leading .828 win percentage. Verlander had four complete games.
To this point in 2012 Verlander is 8-4 with a 2.52 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings. He has started 16 games and completed four. If the Tigers had scored a few more runs for him at the right time he would likely be 10-2. There is only so much great pitchers can do to uplift mediocre teams, or help themselves when the team’s hitters don’t help them.
In 1968, when the St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson posted his lively-ball-era record ERA of 1.12, he also lost nine games. He also threw 13 shutouts in order to obtain those 22 victories. In Gibson’s nine losses he still had an ERA of 2.14. Not a lot of hitting going on that season.
Probably the best single season ever registered by a pitcher playing on a lousy team was Steve Carlton’s 1972 effort. Carlton finished 27-10 with a 1.97 earned run average and struck out 310 during a season when his Philadelphia Phillies won just 59 games. Philly finished 59-97 and last in the National League East.
So there’s room for the Tigers to get worse and for Verlander to get better. Not that anyone should be complaining about him now.
Topics: American League Central, Bob Gibson, Cy Young Award, Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander, Milwaukee Brewers, Most Valuable Player, National League East, NL West, Philadelphia Phillies, Prince Fielder, St Louis Cardinals, Steve Carlton, Victor Martinez