Photo courtesy of the Boston Herald
By: Ross Sutton
After the 2013 season when Justin Verlander was voted to his sixth career all-star game, he struggled for a year or two, as he posted an unusually high ERA of 4.54 in 2014 and had an injury-plagued 2015 season. He seemed to be back on track in 2016 as he posted a 3.04 ERA over 227.2 innings, but then Verlander was not his usual self yet again during the first half of the 2017 season, as he posted a 3.82 ERA before being traded to the Astros later in the season. Since the change of scenery, Verlander has looked like he did during the 2011 season, when he won the Cy Young Award and MVP Award. During his time with the Astros in last year’s regular season, Verlander was fantastic, posting a 1.06 ERA. Then during the playoffs in 2017, Verlander was a rock for Houston, shutting down the Yankees bats in the ALCS, as he won ALCS MVP and had a dazzling 0.56 ERA during the seven-game series. Verlander also pitched well against the Red Sox in the ALDS and the Dodgers in the World Series, allowing eight earned runs over 20.2 total innings pitched. The Astros were lucky to land Verlander, and they likely would not have won the World Series last year if they had not made the last-second trade at the waiver deadline.
Verlander has been equally unhittable so far in 2018, as he currently owns a league-best 1.05 ERA over 68.2 innings. Indians’ pitcher Trevor Bauer threw shade at the dominant Astros’ rotation earlier this season, implying that Houston’s starters were cheating and were using pine tar or other substances in order to increase their spin rates. There might be some truth to this claim, as it seems pretty unbelievable that Astros’ starter Charlie Morton all the sudden learned how to throw a 96 MPH fastball at the age of 34. The Astros also have three starting pitchers with a sub 2.00 ERA, which is insane. Until these claims are proven though, I’d rather celebrate these dominant arms, especially Verlander. It has been awesome to see a great competitor like Verlander prove the doubters wrong and show everyone that he is just as good as he was earlier in his career. With an unhittable starting staff, the Astros have a huge advantage over the rest of their competition in the American League as they try to repeat as world champions in 2018. Verlander's next start is tomorrow afternoon against the Giants in Houston.
Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com
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