Verlander unanimous Tiger of the Year
Ace first Detroit pitcher to win award since Sparks in 2001
DETROIT -- Tigers ace Justin Verlander earned unanimous selection as the Tiger of the Year in voting from the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Thursday.
The award, given annually since 1965, hadn't gone to a pitcher since 2001, when knuckleballer Steve Sparks earned the honor. No other hurler had won it since Jack Morris in 1986. But on a team that rode its pitching to the brink of an American League Central title, Verlander's emergence among the game's best starters had the biggest impact.
A year after Verlander's 17 losses tied for the Major League lead, his 19 wins did the same, drawing him within a victory of becoming Detroit's first 20-game winner since Bill Guillickson in 1991. His 269 strikeouts not only led the Majors, but marked the highest total by an AL hurler since Pedro Martinez fanned 284 batters in 2000. It's also the fifth-highest total in franchise history, and the most since Mickey Lolich racked up a Tigers-record 308 strikeouts in 1971.
Verlander's 35 starts and 240 innings pitched also led the big leagues, topping Roy Halladay by one inning and a slew of Major League hurlers by one game.
Among his single-game feats was a two-hitter in a 1-0 win at Cleveland on May 8, helped in part by a leaping catch by Curtis Granderson to rob Grady Sizemore of a home run. Verlander shook off his career-long struggles in Chicago with a complete-game, 2-1 victory over the White Sox on June 10 at U.S. Cellular Field, and he silenced the Red Sox on Aug. 13 with eight scoreless innings at Fenway Park for a 2-0 victory that prevented a series sweep.
Perhaps most important, he helped pitch the Tigers into a one-game tiebreaker for the AL Central crown with 7 2/3 innings of three-run ball to beat the White Sox again on the final scheduled day of the regular season, one of three straight Verlander victories in as many starts to close out his year.
It was simply a dominant season for a team needing solid pitching to support an offense that struggled to score runs, and the best all-around single season for a Tigers pitcher since Morris commanded the mound at Tiger Stadium.
Every vote went to Verlander. None went to previous Tiger of the Year Miguel Cabrera, whose .324 batting average, .942 OPS, 34 home runs and 127 RBIs all ranked eighth or better among AL players and helped fuel a Tigers offense that needed help.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.