November 29, 2022
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Justin Verlander has already built a Hall of Fame career and he’s not done yet

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Justin Verlander has won his third Cy Young Award. This puts him in elite company. It’s also pretty humorous to consider that he’s won more Cy Youngs in his time with the Astros than the Tigers, though there’s really no reason to delve further into that right now. 

I would, however, like to do a deeper dive with Verlander and it concerns his run toward eventual enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It feels like he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer and that he’ll be an easy checkmark for me the first year he’s eligible, which is five seasons after he’s retired. 

We can still walk through it right now. I’ve got time. It’s the offseason! 

Verlander, with three Cy Young wins, joins Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. The only pitchers with more are Roger Clemens (7), Randy Johnson (5), Greg Maddux (4) and Steve Carlton (4). I think we can all agree that list contains top level Hall of Famers, as the only ones who aren’t there yet are still active or connected to PEDs. 

One could also argue that Verlander should have won the Cy Young in 2016 when he got the most first-place votes. He also came in second and had a strong argument in 2012 and was the runner-up in 2018, though that vote wasn’t quite as questionable. Still, it was very close (169 to 154) and Verlander is a few votes in a few years away from even more trophies.

We don’t need to stray from the actual facts in order to make a Hall of Fame case here, though. 

Additional hardware: 9 All-Star Games (he started the game twice), an MVP, a Rookie of the Year, two-time World Series champion and ALCS MVP. 

Verlander is now 244-133 in his career. Pitchers never needed to get to 300 wins to make the Hall of Fame, but wins are much harder to come by these days with a five-man rotation and more bullpen specialization. Even with the bar being lower, Verlander is 56th in career wins and has more than Juan Marichal, Three Finger Brown (I told you 300 was never a requirement!), Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter, Bob Lemon, Hal Newhouser and several other Hall of Fame starting pitchers. 

He has a career 3.24 ERA (132 ERA+), which puts him 42nd in career ERA+ (minimum 1000 innings pitched) and ahead of Hall of Famers like Bob Gibson, Koufax, Seaver, Palmer, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale and Tom Glavine. His 1.117 career WHIP is 38th all-time (minimum 1000 innings pitched) and lower than Pete Alexander, Cy Young, Fergie Jenkins, Maddux and Roy Halladay. 

How about those strikeouts? With 3,198, Verlander is 12th all-time, trailing Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Clemens, Carlton, Bert Blyleven, Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Walter Johnson, Maddux and Phil Niekro. The fewest career innings pitched among those names is 4,135 1/3 from Johnson. Verlander is currently at 3,163 career innings. He’ll likely pass Niekro and Maddux to get into the top 10 next season, too. 

Among starting pitchers, Verlander ranks 27th in career WAR at 77.6. The average Hall of Fame starting pitcher WAR is 73, so he’s already above water here. The only pitchers with more WAR not in the Hall of Fame are Clemens (PED connection) and Curt Schilling (I’ve argued for him for years). There are a litany of Hall of Famers with fewer WAR than Verlander, obviously, since he’s above average. 

The JAWS system — which uses a player’s seven-year peak combined with his longevity — shows even better results for Verlander. He’s 20th all-time behind Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Clemens, Alexander, Lefty Grove, Kid Nichols, Seaver, Maddux, Randy Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn, Pedro Martinez, Gibson, Niekro, Blyleven, Carlton, Eddie Plank, Perry and Robin Roberts. 

Verlander has led his league in wins four times, ERA twice, complete games once, innings pitched four times, strikeouts five times, ERA+ three times, WHIP five times and WAR four times. 

We could say more, but it’s not really necessary. This is as complete a Hall of Fame case as you can find these days. The only possible blemishes would be that he isn’t going to reach 300 wins (and that was already covered above) and that he previously didn’t have a win in the World Series (that’s done now). 

Otherwise, this is a Tour De Force of a Hall of Fame case. We’re still watching one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history rack up hardware.





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