After winning the MVP as well as the Cy Young awards last season, there’s not much more for Justin Verlander to accomplish in a regular season. One of the most dominant, if not THE most dominant pitchers in the game today, Verlander has been lucky and good enough to pile up a bunch of awards on his mantle. Given the competitive nature of Verlander, I imagine he would trade all of those awards for a World Series ring this season, but of course he doesn’t have to. He just needs to add the World Series ring.
It doesn’t seem like this long, but 2012 is Justin Verlander’s eighth as a pro. In those eight seasons, the Tigers have now made the playoffs three times. Not nearly as many as Tigers fans would’ve liked, but not much we can do about that. In 2006 and 2011, Justin Verlander had strong seasons. 2006, his rookie year, Verlander went 17-9 on the season with an ERA of 3.63. In 2011, he was dominant, going 24-5 with an ERA of 2.40 on his way to those aforementioned awards.
The post-season performance those two years? Verlander is a combined 3-3 with an ERA of 5.57.
Now, I don’t want people who read this to think I am suggesting that Justin Verlander is a choker of some sort. Two post-seasons, especially when one of those is as a rookie, is just not a large enough sample to decide these things. After all, he has made just 8 post-season starts. But let’s be fair, we as fans should expect more from Justin Verlander and he needs to carry his regular season dominance to the post-season. This post-season.
If Justin Verlander is going to continue to be recognized as potentially the best pitcher in the game, there is going to be an expectation that he can win in the playoffs. He has yet to show he can do so at this point with any consistency, and the Tigers need him in 2012 more than ever. While Doug Fister and Max Scherzer have rounded out the rotation during the year, Scherzer’s shoulder soreness leaves some question as to how effective he will be this off-season. Fister should be fine, but the Tigers don’t know what to expect from newcomer Anibal Sanchez either, as this will be his first appearance in his career in the playoffs.
Verlander needs to lead in the post-season, much like he has for years in the regular season.
The Tigers will need Verlander’s leadership, and by leadership, I mean what he does on the mound. He is slated to start the first game for the Tigers in the second season, and given the uncertainties surround some of the rest of the rotation, the Tigers just need the wins. It’s always good to get off to a good start, and strong start by Verlander could set the tone.
The post-season is the final frontier for Justin Verlander to conquer. He certainly has the talent to do it, but if he fails to do so in 2012, the whispers are going to start. The kind of whispers that wonder why Verlander can’t replicate what he does in the regular season.
No great player ever wants the tag of being just a regular season performer. Legends are built and made by what a player does or doesn’t do in the post-season. While Justin Verlander is building a regular season career worth admiration of his peers; ultimately, if he doesn’t make do with his post-season chances, the shine of his career won’t look as bright at the end. Maybe not by Detroit fans, but the media outside of Detroit.
And that would be a shame, because with the career that Justin Verlander is having so far, it deserves to be admired by everyone.