Results tagged ‘ Justin Verlander ’

Verlander named Sporting News Player of the Year

Strike one blow in the Pitcher for MVP debate for Justin Verlander. And impressively, it came from his fellow Major League players.

The crowning honor of the season-ending awards from the Sporting News, the Player of the Year award, went to Verlander, the magazine announced Friday morning. Verlander is the first pitcher to win the honor since Orel Hershiser in 1988.

Voting took place among 289 Major League players, and the vote was very divided. Verlander received 67 votes, just 10 more than former teammate Curtis Granderson, with Matt Kemp close behind at 41. Jose Bautista and Ryan Braun received 25 votes apiece.

Verlander, Avila on Sporting News AL all-star team

The first end-of-season test for Justin Verlander’s MVP candidacy comes out Friday, when Sporting News names its MLB Player of the Year. On Thursday, though, he received the more obvious honor of the starting pitching spot on the magazine’s AL All-Star team. He was the only unanimous selection on the AL side, according to the article on the Sporting News website.

Voting took place among 289 players, 23 managers and 55 Major League executives, so getting a unanimous selection isn’t easy. Matt Kemp was the only one to get it on the NL side, which means somebody didn’t vote for Clayton Kershaw despite his lofty stats.

Alex Avila also made the AL team at catcher. Somewhat surprisingly, Miguel Cabrera didn’t get the nod at first base, losing out to Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Keep in mind, though, that voting took place in September, with most ballots turned in before Cabrera went on his final-week tear and before the Red Sox collapse was complete.

Also surprising, as others have pointed out: Jose Valverde didn’t get the relief pitcher honor. That went to Mariano Rivera. Did the Big Potato’s save celebrations turn off some players around voting time, or did they go with the Hall of Famer?

Also, in less of a shocker but still intriguing, Jhonny Peralta lost out to his former teammate in Cleveland, Asdrubal Cabrera, for shortstop honors.

Verlander up for top honor at Players Choice Awards

Justin Verlander is a finalist for not only the American League’s Outstanding Player, but Major League Player of the Year honors among the Players Choice Awards to be announced Nov. 3 on MLB Network.

The MLB Players Association, which administers the awards through player balloting, announced the three finalists for each award on Friday. Verlander is the lone Tiger up for any awards, but the fact that he made the list of finalists for the biggest award on the docket says a lot about his chances.

The awards tend to serve as a preview for the more traditional Major League awards, as voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America and announced later in the month.

Like the AL Cy Young award, Verlander is an overwhelming favorite to win AL Outstanding Pitcher honors. He captured the AL’s pitching Triple Crown by topping all AL pitchers with 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts, becoming the first American Leaguer to do that since Johan Santana in 2006 and the first Tiger since Hal Newhouser in 1945.

Verlander also led AL pitchers with 251 innings, a .192 opposing batting average and a 0.92 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) ratio.

His competition for outstanding pitcher includes Angels ace Jered Weaver, who barely lost out to Verlander for the league ERA title at 2.41 while posting an 18-8 record for an Angels team that finished second to Texas in the AL West. The other finalist is James Shields, whose 11 complete games left him just five outs shy of Verlander’s innings mark while going 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and 225 strikeouts over 249 1/3 innings.

No pitcher has won Player of the Year since it was added to the Players Choice Awards in 1998, but Verlander has a very good shot to be the first. His two competitors are his former Detroit teammate Curtis Granderson, who hit 41 homers with 119 RBIs while leading the league with 136 runs scored, and Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez, who finished second to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in batting average at .338 while driving in 117 runs and posting a .410 on-base percentage.

The Player of the Year award is the players’ equivalent of MVP honors, but it includes players from both leagues. How Verlander fares in balloting won’t necessarily reflect how his AL MVP chances went, because it’s hard to tell whether player sentiment on voting a pitcher for a traditional position player honor reflects the views of writers who vote on MVP. Still, it would be a very nice harbinger for him.

Cabrera did not make the list for Player of the year, nor did he crack the three finalists for AL Outstanding Player despite his AL batting crown. It’s worth noting, though, that balloting among players was conducted in mid-September, before Cabrera’s final-week run to lead the league in average.

Players Choice winners in each category will designate charities to receive grants from the Major League Baseball Players Trust, which promotes community involvement while raising funds and attention for worthy causes. A total of $260,000 in grants will be given out from the awards.

 

With bullpen gassed, it’s Verlander or bust

The Tigers’ postseason hopes are going to ride or die with Justin Verlander.

With manager Jim Leyland ruling out both closer Jose Valverde and setup man Joaquin Benoit after three straight days of pitching, the only opponent that’s going to knock Verlander out of Game 5 in the American League Championship Series is his own pitch count.

It’s the opposite approach to the quick hook many managers use in elimination games in the postseason. But with a 24 regular-season wins, a pitching Triple Crown and a very strong case for AL MVP, he isn’t a typical pitcher, even in an elimination game.

“The only thing I’m worried today is his pitch count,” Leyland said Thursday morning. “I’m not worried about the results. If he gives up some runs, he gives up some runs. That’s just the way it is. Too bad, and [in that case] we’ll probably get beat.”

Given the pitch counts Verlander has piled up this season, he’s going to be out there a while. The only real concern Leyland cited is if Verlander throws a lot of pitches in the early innings and struggles to conserve pitches through the middle innings.

The only reliever Leyland mentioned by name for being on call today is left-hander Phil Coke, who mopped up the 11th inning Wednesday night after Nelson Cruz’s three-run homer gave the Rangers their 7-3 lead.

Leyland said Coke could pitch two innings “if he has to.”

“I hope he doesn’t have to,” Leyland said. “If he has to, we’re probably not going to win.”

In other words, Leyland continued, “I’m hoping Verlander can give us nine [innings].”

Verlander has thrown 13 innings over three starts this postseason, but two of those were shortened by rain. The one that wasn’t came in Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Yankees, and he delivered eight innings of four-run ball in that outing.

Valverde not only pitched three straight days, his limit during the regular season, he pitched multiple innings in two of those. His second inning of work Wednesday night was his downfall, giving up three hits and an intentional walk that led to four runs, three of them on Cruz’s homer.

When Leyland was asked about Valverde’s availability before Game 4, he had a one-word answer: “Postseason.”

Even the postseason, however, has its limits.

“I’m not pitching either one of them,” Leyland said. “Valverde’s going to say that he’s OK, but I’m not pitching him. We’re going to get somebody hurt if we’re not careful. We’ve got a guy that saved 51 games in a row, and you’ve got an option on him. I mean, people can bark, but they’re pitching on fumes and heart right now.”

No on Verlander, very much yes on Scherzer

Justin Verlander threw his side session in the visiting bullpen at Yankee Stadium earlier today, well before batting practice. If you were still hoping, after all that Jim Leyland has said the last couple days about not using him in Game 5, that he would be available in relief tonight, that’s definitive news that he won’t.  If he was going to pitch in relief, the Tigers would have held him back from his side session and saved those throws. The fact that he threw today means the Tigers want him ready for Game 1 of the ALCS, if they get there.

Max Scherzer is another story. Leyland told reporters after his press conference that Scherzer told pitching coach Jeff Jones he felt he could throw 100 pitches tonight. Doesn’t mean he will, obviously, but it means he has a fresh arm if they need it.

“If we need to go long, I’m going to go to Scherzer,” Leyland said. “If we get to the late innings, I’m going to [Joaquin] Benoit and [Jose] Valverde. It’s that simple. If I need Coke to get one lefty out in a big situation, I would probably go to him. Other than that, you would probably not see any other pitchers tonight. If you do, we got beat.”

In fact, if Leyland has to go to his bullpen in the middle innings, he might turn to Scherzer.

If the Tigers use any relievers besides those four, and it isn’t extra innings, it’s not a good sign.

Checking the schedule with Justin Verlander

Once again, Justin Verlander will take the mound in Kansas City Saturday night, bringing his 7-2 career record and 1.62 ERA at Kauffman Stadium with him along with an extra day of rest. Manager Jim Leyland kept his rotation in line after last Monday’s off-day to give him a little breather.

The question now is whether Leyland will do it again next week. The schedule suggests he will not.

The Tigers have another off-day coming up Monday before their three-game Central showdown in Cleveland Tuesday through Thursday. If Leyland keeps his rotation in order, Verlander would miss that series and start next Friday in Baltimore. For reference, here’s a link to the Tigers’ August schedule.

That was weighing on Leyland’s mind a couple days ago. He was looking not just at next week, but for several weeks down the line, including another series against the Indians at Comerica Park in two weeks — also following an off-day.

“He’s getting an extra day this time,” Leyland said Tuesday. “Next time’s up in the air. If he gets an extra day the next time, he’ll miss Cleveland.”

If Verlander starts on four days’ rest for the next three turns, he would pitch in both of those Tigers-Indians series. If he gets the extra day and misses next week’s series in Cleveland, it’s almost impossible for him to face the Indians when they come to Detroit.

Makes sense, right? The main reason there would be a question is the schedule after that. Thanks to a Sept. 1 makeup game against the Royals, the Tigers have 20 games in 20 days from Aug. 18 to Sept. 7. If you’re going to rest him up before the stretch run, these next couple weeks are the time to do it. After Aug. 18, the Tigers have just two off-days on the rest of the regular-season schedule.

“I’m working real hard on my rotation right now to figure some things out,” Leyland said. “It could get pretty tricky, so I’m working real hard on that to make sure. We do the best we can, but obviously you don’t him missing some teams if you can help him. But we’d never do anything at the expense of his health.”

This is the time of year when Verlander wants to be his strongest, the time when Verlander’s training really makes a difference. He leads the majors in innings pitched and pitches thrown, but he has done that the last couple years.

I’m not saying Leyland will or won’t do it. I suspect Leyland’s leaning towards making sure he faces Cleveland, but I don’t know that. He brought up the issue himself, not me. But we’ll see.

The next question, albeit a smaller one, is how Leyland would shuffle his rotation if he did move up Verlander. The way the rotation order goes right now, Thursday’s series finale at Cleveland is Rick Porcello’s day to pitch. He was skipped a couple times early this season, but he wasn’t on a roll then like he is now. The Tigers could skip him again, or they can move him to Friday at Baltimore. If it’s the latter, they can give others an extra day, or another pitcher could get skipped.

Was Aybar right to bunt?

There were plenty of contentious topics coming out of Sunday’s win, from what seemed like a misunderstanding from Jered Weaver over Magglio Ordonez’s home run to what looked like a threat from Justin Verlander to get Erick Aybar next year after keeping his poise on the mound all day. But one of the lingering questions was Aybar’s bunt leading off the eighth inning, and whether he violated baseball’s unwritten rulebook doing it.

Verlander tried to look at both sides, but the pitcher in him couldn’t hide his disdain for it.

“Very surprised,” Verlander said after the game. “It’s a three-run game, a close game, but there’s arguments both ways. Obviously, from a pitching standpoint, that’s kind of, we like to call it bush league. But there’s arguments both sides of it. It’s a three run game, if you get a guy on base, you never know what can happen. Those things work themselves out.”

Later, he tweaked his answer, albeit slightly.

“From a pitcher’s perspective, yes,” Verlander said when asked if that play was wrong. “From the Angels’ perspective, I doubt they feel that way. It’s a three-run game. You never know what can happen if you get a guy on base. I know there’s probably two vastly different opinions on that based on which side of the locker room you’re on right now.”

That would be correct, though both managers said Aybar had the right to try it.

“Beautiful play,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I’ll be in the minority with the people who didn’t like that, I disagree with that totally. They’ve got a good team with a lot of speed. They’re trying to win a pennant, just like we, are I don’t have any problem with that play whatsoever. He’s trying to get on base and as it turned out, it was a big play for them because that was one that got it going for them. I have no problem with that. That’s baseball. You’re supposed to play the game right. They play the game right.”

The score at the time, obviously, is the key.

“That’s a great baseball play,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “If the score’s 10-0, obviously it’s a different situation. We’re trying to get that trying run to the plate. Leading off an inning, you use whatever weapon you have.”

Closer Jose Valverde said it basically depends on which team you’re following.

“You know, it’s baseball,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do. Everything tries to do the most they can. Aybar, that’s part of his game. Everybody plays a different game. Do I like it? No, I don’t like it, because I want my guy to throw a no-hitter. But everybody plays a different game. There’s nothing you can do about that. If I play for Anaheim, I don’t like what Carlos did. But I like it, because Carlos plays on my team.”

Aybar’s response was pretty much on that point.

“That’s my game,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that. Verlander was great today. So we tried to get back [into the game].”

Verlander throws at All-Star Game (sort of)

The All-Star Game hadn’t even started Tuesday afternoon at Chase Field, but Justin Verlander was already thinking towards the second half. While the American League All-Stars were in the visiting clubhouse signing autographs and getting ready for batting practice, Verlander was in the bullpen. It’s his day to throw his side session, after all, and not even an All-Star Game — or the ribbing of his teammates — is going to interrupt that.

“He threw a bullpen at the All-Star Game,” Josh Beckett marveled, with a little bit of teasing. “We’ll just call him Cy Young.”

Verlander smiled and grabbed his cell phone.

“I gotta call Skip, tell him I’m good to go,” Verlander said.

There was at least a little bit of question about that coming out of Verlander’s win Sunday. He threw 119 pitches under sweltering heat in Kansas City, and manager Jim Leyland had left open the possibility that Verlander could get an extra day of rest through the break and start Saturday instead of Friday. But it’s well-known that Verlander feels more comfortable pitching on four days’ rest than five,  no matter what kind of outing he’s coming off.

If anything, he can at least say he got in some pitches at the All-Star Game this year.

Four Tigers All-Stars, possibly another

Alex Avila’s campaign for All-Star votes, as led by teammate Justin Verlander, paid off in the end. In his first year as the Tigers’ everyday catcher, he’ll be starting behind the plate for the American League in the All-Star Game.

His starting nod highlights four All-Stars for the Tigers, the second time in three years they’ve had that total. Miguel Cabrera, Jose Valverde and Justin Verlander will join Avila in Phoenix for the Midsummer Classic July 12.

Victor Martinez will have the chance to join them if he can win the All-Star Game Final Vote. Balloting for that began today at MLB.com and runs through Thursday.

For all but one of them, it’s a return to the All-Star Game. For Avila, the first time might well be the sweetest. He becomes the first Tiger voted by fans into the All-Star lineup since 2007, when Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco all made it. Miguel Cabrera started last year’s game at first base, but did so after Justin Morneau was scratched due to injury.

Avila led all American League catchers in almost every major offensive category, short of home runs. Still, Russell Martin’s hot opening month as a New York Yankee earned him a slew of early votes once fan balloting began in April and May.

The Tigers soon picked up Avila’s cause. Then came Verlander, whose work with Avila as his catcher has resulted in a no-hitter and several close calls already this year. Verlander took to Twitter and just about any other medium he could find to try to encourage fans to vote Avila.

Avila slowly began catching up Martin, but still trailed by more than 400,000 votes as of the last balloting update earlier this week. But Avila garnered the vast majority of the votes at catcher this week before online balloting closed Thursday night.

“Thanks to all the non-Tigers fans who chose the best player,” Verlander wrote Sunday afternoon on his Twitter account. “To all the Tigers fans, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Best city, best fans.”

Verlander likely won’t get the chance to catch him in the game itself. Though he was an obvious choice for players to vote onto the AL pitching staff, he won’t be eligible to pitch in the Midsummer Classic if he starts for the Tigers at Kansas City next Sunday to close out the season’s first half, as he’s scheduled to do.

With an 11-3 record, 2.32 ERA and just 88 hits over 135 2/3 innings, he would’ve been a strong candidate to start in the game. Still, he’ll be recognized with his third straight All-Star selection, and his fourth overall.

Cabrera makes the All-Star team for the sixth time, the second time as a Tiger. His .329 average entering Sunday ranked third in the AL to go with 17 homers and 56 RBIs. Valverde, 19-for-19 in save chances entering Sunday, is a three-time All-Star.

Verlander, Valverde and Cabrera were all All-Stars last season. It’s the first time three Tigers earned back-to-back All-Star selections since 1985 and ’86, when Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Willie Hernandez made the teams.

Verlander is on another level

This is what Jim Leyland was talking about when he talked about Verlander meeting his potential for so many years, when he talked about how good he can be. He obviously wasn’t the only one.

Verlander has gone on tears during June before. He has said in the past that he believes he had better stuff in the start before his no-hitter in 2007, starting a stretch in which he won four straight starts with four runs on 16 hits allowed over 29 innings, and struck out 35.

This is something different. If not for a 24-pitch eighth inning, he would’ve had a chance at his third straight complete game and his third shutout of the year. He’s 6-0 with a 0.72 ERA over his last six starts, allowing just 26 hits and five walks over 49 2/3 innings with 51 strikeouts.

Stretch it out to 10 starts, beginning with the no-hitter at Toronto, and he’s 8-0 with a 1.56 ERA, 43 hits allowed over 80 2/3 innings, nine walks and 73 strikeouts.

He’s leaving hitters guessing whether they’re going to get a hard fastball or a curveball that he drops in the strike zone. And on Saturday, you can make the case that the curveball was the more dangerous pitch. He threw the curve for a higher percentage of strikes (19-for-25, 76 percent) than he did with the fastball (33-for-50, 66 percent), according to brooksbaseball.net and MLB.com Gameday.

He threw eight of nine sliders for strikes, and 16-for-25 changeups.

The run he’s on is better than any stretch Jack Morris had in 1984. It was better than Mark Fidrych’s eight wins in eights in 1976, though it’s hard to top an 11-inning complete game.

To get a stretch like this, you might have to go back to Mickey Lolich in 1972. From April 25 to May 21, he went 7-0 in seven starts with a 1.14 ERA, allowing 48 hits over 63 innings, with 15 walks and 48 walks. And even that might not compare.

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