You’ve all seen the fancy Yu Darvish gif by Blackbelt Gifologist Drew Shepherd, and a lot of you have probably seen other MLB players get the same treatment. My editing skills are not nearly that good, but I would like to provide you with a GIF to illustrated that Justin Verlander is back on track.
Below you can see his velocity and movement from the terrible start in Texas and also his velocity and movement from his very good start yesterday in KC. As you can seen, the separation between the pitches is much better, but so is the movement. He’s good.
Well folks, what we’ve all been expecting to happened has finally happened. Justin Verlander will be a Tiger (essentially) for life. Today he (effectively) signed the largest contract ever for a pitcher, coming in at a cool 7 years and $180 million with a vesting option for 2020 worth $22 million, for a potential total of $202 million, surpassing Felix Hernandez’s 7 year, $175 million deal from earlier this offseason.
After the Felix deal, I discussed what I thought Verlander was worth and guessed at what he would earn. I figured 8 years and $210 million if he signed this early, but it now looks like the Tigers effectively signed a seven year deal with an option for an eighth given that he is already under contract for 2013-2014. We can debate about whether or not that is a fair comparison, but let’s just think about the deal.
The Tigers now have Verlander through age 36 (37 with the option) and will pay him close to $26 million a season on average. Given the current going rate for a win above replacement (WAR), Verlander needs to be worth around 5 WAR per season on average to earn his keep, but that’s before we adjust for contract inflation which will likely mean he will need to average somewhere around 4.5 WAR per season for the rest of his career.
For now, that should be pretty easy given that he’s been averaging 6 WAR or better for the last four seasons, but we should expect some regression as he ages near the end of the deal. So long as he stays healthy and ages relatively well, the Tigers won’t regret this from a purely baseball perspective.
But it’s more than that. On the field, he’ll probably earn this deal or close to it given his skill level and durability, but he’s also worth a lot to the Tigers as a brand. If you go to Comerica Park, you’ll see more Verlander gear on fans than any other player. He’s the face of the franchise and a huge moneymaker in the pro shop. Plus he’s such a big supporter of the city and fan base as a whole.
I haven’t thought about this enough to be sure, but I’m not sure there is a more beloved athlete by his home fans than Verlander in sports right now. Maybe Tom Brady. Maybe Derek Jeter. But it’s a short list of contenders for a few key reasons. First, Verlander is homegrown. He’s only ever played for the Tigers. Second, he has absolutely no off-field problems like Kobe Bryant or Miguel Cabrera. Third, he embraces the relationship. Fourth, he is really good at baseball.
So I love this deal. It’s a fair price for the Tigers and Verlander gets to become the richest pitcher in the game until Kershaw signs his extension. But I love it because it means Justin Verlander, likely the greatest Tiger of my lifetime thus far, will be a Tiger for his entire career. He will go into Cooperstown having played for only one team. That’s rare today and it demonstrates a level of loyalty that is important to me.
I love athletes who are loyal to their team. Verlander has now locked in that status for life. The Dodgers or Yankees might have offered him more after 2014, but the Tigers offered him enough now, so he took it. He’ll spend the rest of his playing days trying to bring titles to the city that he loves, and more importantly the city that adores him.
If you’re not a Tigers fan, you might not have a good understanding. When Verlander is on the mound, Detroit (and Michigan) stop. When people say, “When’s he pitching next?” you don’t have to ask who they mean.
When he throws a gem, the standing ovation is on another level. We love Justin Verlander in a way that we can’t love most athletes anymore. Either their bad people in the private lives or they jump ship for more money or more glamour. Justin Verlander is neither. They don’t build statues for people who leave town for more money and they can start building his statue now.
He’s the real deal. If he blows out his elbow in two years, I won’t look back on this deal as a mistake. At this moment in time, he is worth it. He’s more worth it than any other pitcher in the game and he means more to Detroit than he ever would to anyone else.
Justin Verlander will be a Tiger for life. He will, for now, be the richest pitcher on the planet. Opening Day is in three days and his first home start should be eight days from now. I promise you, when he leads the team onto the field with “Til I Collapse” playing on the stadium speakers, Comerica Park could cave in.
Detroit has always loved Justin Verlander. Now we know he loves us too.
Editor’s Note: This was perhaps not even the coolest thing JV did today. See below.
In continuing our preseason awards series, we have arrived at the boring one. Sorry about that, but these things happen. Sometimes the pick is too obvious and the drama is lacking. This is one of those times.
On Sunday, I ran down our list of the The Nine Best AL Starters for 2013 and there are a lot of great names on that list. Felix Hernandez, David Price, Yu Darvish, and my breakout pick Matt Moore are all going to make a run at the top pitching honor in the AL, but the award will be outside their grasp.
And the award will go to…
Justin Verlander (SP – Tigers)
You knew this was coming. Verlander enters his eighth major league season as the front man of one of the best, if not the best, rotations in all of baseball. He’s been a machine and continues to mix dominance with durability.
He has run off four 6 WAR or better season in a row and has a Cy Young and MVP from his 2011 campaign. Heck, he should have won another Cy Young last season.
Verlander is the best pitcher on the planet, and there are really only a handful of guys who really compare. Anything can happen, but it usually doesn’t. Usually, Goliath beats David and the Soviet Union wins the 1980 Gold Medal.
This seems like one of those times. Justin Verlander is simply too good at throwing a baseball to not pick him for the Cy Young. I just couldn’t pick anyone else, even if I wanted to. It’s certainly possible that he doesn’t win the award in 2013, but if I picked anyone else I would simply be making a bold prediction just for the sake of doing so, and I hate people who do that.
Justin Verlander is the best starting pitcher in the American League until someone proves otherwise.
Yesterday, beloved Tigers ace Justin Verlander turned thirty years old. He accomplished a great deal in his twenties such as winning two pennants, Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young, and an MVP award to go along with 124 wins (39.3 WAR) and the title of best pitcher in baseball. Sometime in the next two years, he’ll also likely sign the largest contract ever given to a pitcher.
Verlander is an extraordinary pitcher and we love him for that, but Justin Verlander is also extremely terrible at something. Hitting.
Put more clearly, Justin Verlander accumulated exactly zero hits before his 30th birthday.
He’s 0-24 with 9 sac bunts, 14 strikeouts and one GIDP. That is a very bad stat line if you’re not familiar with baseball. His triple slash line is all zeros and his wRC+ is -100. League average is 100 (notice the absence of a minus sign).
Well, so what, AL pitchers can’t be asked to hit, right? Well they have to hit a little bit.
In 2012, AL pitchers made 319 plate appearances (about half a season for a standard position player) and posted a .122/.143/.129 slash line. That is very bad by any field player standard, but it is a line of which Verlander can only dream.
Over the last seven seasons (JV’s career), AL pitchers hit a collective .118. He has hit .000.
So to even be average among his peers, Verlander should have between two and three hits in his career. Of course it’s a small sample, but this is a fun post, so we get to ignore that.
Let’s go further, since 2006, 29 pitchers have twenty or more plate appearances in an AL uniform. Guess how many don’t have a hit?
Two. Only Verlander and Jon Lester. Only Lester, Kevin Milwood, and Tim Wakefield have more strikeouts than JV.
So while, AL pitchers are rarely asked to hit, the AL’s best pitcher is probably one of the league’s very worst hitters, even among his peers.
Justin Verlander is spectacular at many things, but hitting is not one of them. He has two no-hitters and only four men have three. It would surprise no one if he joined that group this year. But could 2013 be the year he finally gets a hit?
That seems like a longshot.
The league’s best pitcher is quite possibly the league’s worst hitter. Now, who wants to tell him?
Felix Hernandez is a starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners baseball club. He is now, also, the owner of the largest contract every given to a starting pitcher. The details of the deal are 7 years, $175 million. This contract will replace the final two years of his current deal and will carry through the 2019 season, paying out at $25 million per season.
So while this is the biggest contract in history for a pitcher, it absolutely should be. He’s one of the best four or five pitchers in the league and is entering his age 27 season. If every pitcher signed a one year deal before 2013, Felix would certainly be among the top handful by dollar amount and his relative youth compared to most free agent starting pitchers means a seven year commitment doesn’t take you very far into his decline years, as does a contract that a player signs at 30 or 31.
Felix is among the game’s best and most durable starting pitchers, having never been on the DL and throwing over 230 IP in each of the last four season to go along with four straight 5+WAR seasons. The Mariners want him anchoring their rotation for years to come.
Any big contract for a pitcher is a risk, but if you’re going to offer them, you want the deal to be going to a player on the right side of thirty with no injury history and a consistent and high level of performance. Felix meets all of those criteria and is the unquestioned face of the Mariners. This is the deal you sign when all of those things are going in your favor.
Let’s ponder briefly what this means for Justin Verlander who is on the same free agent clock. Verlander is three years older, but has been better over the last four seasons than Felix and has been no less durable. It’s probably safe to say that Felix and JV are the too safest bets as far as durability and sustained performance are concerned.
Verlander’s age will be a factor, but he also plays for a higher spending club and is at least marginally better than Felix. He will also sign his deal after Felix and could do so a year closer to free agency or while on the free agent market. Even if you think Felix is a better bet from a cost benefit standpoint over the next seven seasons, Verlander is the type of player who will attract more money because he’s a more dynamic and recognizable player and his ceiling is likely higher in the opinion of most baseball people.
Both players are Hall of Fame caliber players if they maintain their career paths and if the Tigers want to make JV a Tiger for life or some other team wants to pry him from the Tigers hands, it’s going to take a lot of cash.
Right or wrong, he’ll end up with more than Felix. Here are my estimates:
Signs before Opening Day 2013: 8 years, $210 million
Signs before Opening Day 2014: 7 years, $210 million
Signs as Free Agent after 2014 season: 6 years, $200 million.
As it appears, I’m confident that barring a serious injury, Verlander will be baseball’s first $200 million arm.