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Justin Verlander

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Justin Brooks Verlander

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[edit] Biographical Information

Justin Verlander was chosen second overall in the 2004 amateur draft and became one of baseball's best young pitchers in first full year in the majors.

[edit] Amateur career

Verlander had been a high school prospect, throwing as high as 94 mph, before illness limited his performance as a senior and scared some scouts off. Justin went on to Old Dominion University, where he went 7-6 with a 1.90 ERA as a freshman. He was named the Colonial Athletic Association Freshman of the Year and led the CAA in ERA. His 137 Ks in 114 innings were second in the association to Whitt Farr, one of the two starters to beat Verlander out for a spot on the All-Conference squad. He was named a Freshman All-American by Baseball America, joining Philip Humber and Huston Street. He was sixth in NCAA Division I in strikeouts and 11th in ERA. Verlander honed his skills prior to enterring the MLB Amateur Draft pitching Summer Collegiate Baseball for the Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plain League. He went 1-4 with a 2.78 ERA but struck out 54 in 40 1/3 innings and allowed 22 hits (albeit with 26 walks). Baseball America rated him as the top prospect in the league that year.

In 2003, Justin fell to 7-6, 2.40, though he led the CAA with 139 K in 116 IP. He made the All-Conference team and was 8th in the nation in strikeouts. As a junior, Verlander was 7-6 for the third straight year, this time with a 3.49 ERA. His strikeout rate got even better as he sat down 151 batters on strikes in 106 innings. He again was an All-Conference pick, was fifth nationally in Ks (between Humber and Wade Townsend) and third in K/9 (behind Jered Weaver and Tim Lincecum).

[edit] Contract negotiations

Scouted by Bill Buck, Verlander was picked after only Matt Bush in the 2004 draft, selected by the Detroit Tigers. Negotiations were rough and Detroit eventually gave up on signing him. Bypassing agent Mike Milchin, Justin's father Richard, a former union rep for the Communication Workers of America, contacted Detroit to handle the negotiations himself. The team praised Richard's work in enabling them to work out a contract for a $3.12 million signing bonus, a guarantee of $4.5 million and a maximum value of $5.6 million.

[edit] Minor league career

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Verlander spent one year in the minor leagues and was named Detroit's minor league player of the year. Throwing in the high 90s and using a sharp curveball, Justin was 9-2 with a 1.67 ERA for the Lakeland Tigers. He struck out 104 in 86 IP while walking only 19 in his debut at hig hclass A. Moving up to the AA Erie SeaWolves, he went 2-0 with a 0.28 ERA in seven starts, allowing only one run in 32 2/3 IP, giving up just 11 hits, 7 walks and striking out 32. Lefties hit .130 against him and right-handers .082. Baseball America rated him the #2 prospect in the Florida State League after Andy LaRoche and ahead of Lastings Milledge. They also rated him as being the top pitching prospect in the league, having the best control, best fastball and best breaking ball. His 1.29 ERA was clearly the lowest in the minor leagues, .73 lower than Ray Liotta. In the 2005 Futures Game, Verlander started for the USA and threw one scoreless inning in a 4-0 loss. He finished the year in Detroit, going 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in two starts before being shut down for the year with a tired arm.

[edit] Major League success

As a rookie with the 2006 Tigers, Verlander was a key part of the club's improvement and trip to the 2006 World Series. He regularly hit 100 mph on the radar guns that year. He went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA (124 ERA+), 7th in the 2006 AL in wins and ERA and 5th in ERA+. This outstanding performance earned him the American League Rookie of the Year Award after the season. He had a 5.06 ERA in his lone start in the Division Series, becoming the second rookie to start for Detroit in the postseason, 98 years after Ed Summers was the first. He then gave up 3 runs in 5 1/3 innings in a Game 2 victory against the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS, then lost Game 1 of the World Series to another rookie, Anthony Reyes of the St. Louis Cardinals, the first time two rookies had faced off in game one of a World Series. Down 3 games to 1, Detroit went with Verlander again in Game 5 to try to remain alive, but he suffered another defeat to bring Detroit's World Series hopes to an end.

On June 12, Tigers, Verlander threw the second no-hitter of the season. It was the first no-hitter by a Detroit Tigers hurler since Jack Morris in 1984. Verlander fanned 12 Brewers in the first no-hitter at Comerica Park. He walked four and was aided by good defense by Magglio Ordonez to rob Corey Hart in the 7th. Amazingly, he was hitting 102 mph on the radar gun in the 9th inning. It was the sixth no-hitter in Tigers history. He had a very good year overall, ending with a record of 18-6 (the best winning percentage in the American League) and 183 strikeouts in 201 innings. He also pitched in the All-Star Game. However, things came crashing down in 2008, as the entire Tigers' roster apparently took a step backward: his ERA jumped from 3.66 to 4.84, and his record was a poor 11-17, although he did again reach 200 innings and his strikeout rate remained solid with 163 whiffs; he led the league in losses.

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He was back among the top pitchers in the American League in 2009 however, as he topped the circuit in wins with 19, innings pitched (240), starts (35) and strikeouts (269). Overall, his record was 19-9, 3.45 as he was the ace of the Tigers' staff, keeping the team in first place in the AL Central until the last day of the season, when they were caught by the Minnesota Twins. He was named to the All-Star team for the second time and finished third in the Cy Young Award vote behind Zach Greinke and Félix Hernández. He had another excellent - and very similar - season in 2010. An All-Star again, he went 18-9, 3.37 in 33 starts, striking out 219 in 224.1 innings. He was in the top 10 in the American League in a number of key categories, including wins, winning percentage, WHIP, innings pitched, strikeouts and complete games.

On April 16, 2011, Verlander was charged with what observers called "history's strangest balk", in the 5th inning of a game against Oakland. With a runner on first, he stepped off the pitching rubber to make an apparent pick-off throw, but changed his mind and instead threw side-arm to the plate, hitting batter David DeJesus in the process. Umpire John Hirschbeck discarded the hit-by-pitch, as the obvious balk took precedence. On May 7th that year, he pitched the second no-hitter of his career, shutting out the Toronto Blue Jays, 9 - 0. Only a one-out walk to J.P. Arencibia in the 8th inning, after a 12-pitch battle, kept him from a perfect game: Arencibia was erased when the next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, hit into a double play and Verlander faced the minimum 27 batters. The gem came less than a week after Francisco Liriano had pitched the first no-hitter of the season. He came close to pitching a second no-hitter in his next start on May 13, keeping the Kansas City Royals hitless into the 6th inning, and ending up giving up only 2 hits in 8 innings. His dominance over the first half got him named to the All-Star team, but he was ineligible to play because of the "Sunday starter" rule. He continued to pitch extremely well in the second half. On August 27th, he won his 8th consecutive start in a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins to become the first 20-game winner in the major leagues that year; he was the first pitcher to win 20 before the end of August since Curt Schilling in 2002, and the first to reach the mark for the Tigers since Bill Gullickson in 1990. He finished the year winning the Pitcher's Triple Crown by leading the AL in wins with a 24-5 record, ERA at 2.40 and strikeouts with 250. He was the unanimous winner of the Cy Young Award. A week later, he added the AL MVP Award to his trophy collection, becoming the first pitcher since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and the first starter since Roger Clemens in 1986 to be so honored. He outpointed Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson in a bunched-up vote.

On May 18, 2012, Verlander made a serious bid for a third career no-hitter, in a start against the Pittsburgh Pirates. After striking out the side in the 8th by hitting 100 mph on the radar gun, he retired the first Pirates batter in the 9th before Josh Harrison singled to break up the no-no. Verlander settled for a 6-0 one-hitter, with 12 strikeouts, which also improved his record in interleague play to 16-2. Verlander was not as successful as the AL starter in the 2012 All-Star Game, giving up 5 first-inning runs with a three-run triple by Pablo Sandoval the big blow. He became the 5th pitcher to allow at least that many runs in an inning in the All-Star Game, joining Atlee Hammaker, Roger Clemens, Sandy Consuegra and Blue Moon Odom. On August 6th, he matched a career best in striking out 14 batters in a 7-2 win over the New York Yankees; it was also the highest total by an American League pitcher that season, one more than the 13 batters Verlander had struck out in a win over the Kansas City Royals on April 16th. He was named the AL's Pitcher of the Month for September, when he went 5-1, 1.93 with 51 strikeouts as the Tigers finally managed to pull away from the Chicago White Sox and win a second consecutive AL Central title. He finished the season with a record of 17-8, 2.64 in 33 starts, leading the AL with 238 1/3 innings pitched and 239 strikeouts. Verlander was at his best in the postseason. He won Game 1 of the ALDS against the Oakland A's on October 6th, giving up a run on 3 hits in 7 innings, then threw a complete game four-hit shutout in the deciding Game 5, leading the Tigers to a 6-0 win. He struck out 11 that day, the most by a pitcher in a winner-take-all game; Sandy Koufax had held the record with 10 in the 1965 World Series. He started Game 3 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees and was again brilliant, keeping the Yankees off the scoreboard on 2 hits through 8 innings. He tired in the 9th, giving up a lead-off homer to Eduardo Nunez and gave way to Phil Coke one out later, but he had done enough to give Detroit a 2-1 win and a three games to none series lead. With the Tigers having a long rest before the start of the 2012 World Series, Verlander could come back to start Game 1 on October 24th against the San Francisco Giants, but it was far from his best performance. He gave up a 1st-inning homer to Pablo Sandoval (his nemesis from the 2012 All-Star Game), which Sandoval followed with a two-run blast in the 3rd, and he was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the top of the 5th, trailing 5-0. The Tigers lost the game, 8-3, and Verlander was charged with the loss in what was his shortest outing for reasons other than weather since 2009. He did not get a chance to pitch again as the Tigers were swept in four games. After the season, he just fell short of repeating as AL Cy Young Award winner, finishing second behind David Price with 13 first-place votes and 149 points to Price's 14 first-place votes and 153 points.

On March 29, 2013, Verlander signed a five-year contract extension with the Tigers, covering the 2015 to 2019 seasons, for $140 million; the deal also includes an option for a sixth year at $22 million. It was the biggest deal given to a pitcher in terms of average annual value, beating out the contract which Felix Hernandez had signed with the Seattle Mariners the previous year. He got off to another great start that year. On May 5th, he made a bid for his third career no-hitter, keeping the Houston Astros hitless until giving up a one-out single to Carlos Pena in the 7th; Carlos Corporan followed with another single, but the inning ended on a double play ground ball, after which Verlander was taken out of the game. The Tigers won, 9-0, and Verlander improved his record to 4-2, 1.55. He showed some of his determination to win on May 22nd, when a start against the Cleveland Indians was interrupted by rain with one out in the 5th and Detroit leading, 9-5. Even though the game was stopped for over an hour and he had thrown 100 pitches already, he convinced manager Jim Leyland to let him return when play resumed to complete the inning; he quickly set down the next two batters and was credited with his 5th win as Detroit held on for an 11-7 victory. He was named to the All-Star team for the 6th time, but had to bow out under the "Sunday Starter" rule when he pitched the last game of the first half for the Tigers on July 14th. It was a beauty, however, as he held the Texas Rangers hitless until Mitch Moreland's two-out double in the 7th. He left after that inning and got credit for the 5-0 win to bring his record on the year to 10-6. He finished the season with a record of 13-12, 3.46, pitching 218 1/3 innings and striking out 217. While he was eclipsed by teammate Max Scherzer during the regular season, he was outstanding in the postseason. facing the Oakland A's in the ALDS, he pitched seven scoreless innings in Game 2, but left with a no-decisionl; he then came back with 8 scoreless innings of two-hit ball to eliminate the A's in Game 5, walking 1 and striking out 10. In his lone start in the ALCS, he pitched another gem, giving up one run to the Boston Red Sox in 8 innings, but was charged with the loss as the Tigers lost, 1-0.

On January 9, 2014, the Tigers announced that Verlander had undergone core muscle surgery to treat a sports hernia sustained during off-season conditioning. The expected recovery time was six weeks, meaning it would delay the start of spring training for him, as the team's pitchers were slated to report to camp by mid-February. Still he recovered fast enough to be the Tigers' opening day starter. On April 12th, he collected the first two hits of his career in a 6-2 win over the San Diego Padres; he had gone 0 for 26 during the regular season and 0 for in the postseason until then. However, he did not have his usual success that year, as he was only 10-11, 4.76 after 25 starts and had to undergo an MRI in mid-August because of "shoulder soreness". He who had never missed a start in the majors had had to leave the game on August 11th after allowing 5 runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st inning in what was the shortest start of his career.

[edit] Personal Life

Verlander donated the $70,000 in bonuses he earned for the Cy Young and MVP awards after the 2011 season to his Victory for Veterans Foundation, topping it from his own funds to reach $100,000. A number of his relatives have served in the armed forces, from World War II to Afghanistan, and he decided to give back by supporting the John D. Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit, MI and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare Center in Ann Arbor, MI. He has also hosted hundreds of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan in his family suite at Comerica Park and tries to meet personally with as many of his guests as possible.

Justin's brother, Ben Verlander, an outfielder who followed Justin to Old Dominion University, was drafted by the Tigers in the 14th round of the 2013 amateur draft. He had been a 46th round selection out of high school in 2010.

In 2014, his relationship with actress Kate Upton received a lot of publicity as she was seen at ballparks where he pitched on various occasions.

Sources include 2003-2006 Baseball Almanacs, 2002 Wilson Tobs stats

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 2006 AL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 2006 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 6-time AL All-Star (2007 & 2009-2013)
  • 2011 AL MVP
  • 2011 AL Cy Young Award
  • 2011 AL Pitcher's Triple Crown
  • AL ERA Leader (2011)
  • 2-time AL Wins Leader (2009 & 2011)
  • 2-time AL Winning Percentage Leader (2007 & 2011)
  • 3-time AL Innings Pitched Leader (2009, 2011 & 2012)
  • 3-time AL Strikeouts Leader (2009, 2011 & 2012)
  • AL Complete Games Leader (2012)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 6 (2006, 2007 & 2009-2012)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (2011)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 7 (2007-2013)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 5 (2009-2013)


AL Rookie of the Year
2005 2006 2007
Huston Street Justin Verlander Dustin Pedroia
AL Cy Young Award
2010 2011 2012
Felix Hernandez Justin Verlander David Price
AL MVP
2010 2011 2012
Josh Hamilton Justin Verlander Miguel Cabrera

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