Looking Back at Justin Verlander’s Remarkable 2011 and Looking Ahead


One of the most exciting moments of my life occurred on October 13th, 2011 at Comerica Park. It was Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The pitching match-up was Justin Verlander vs. C.J. Wilson. The energy that was in the park that night is simply indescribable, as chants of “MVP” echoed all the way to the Renaissance Center.

And no, those “MVP” chants weren’t for Jose Valverde. Those ominous, incredible chants were meant for Justin Verlander, whom just a mere four years ago looked like a reincarnated Steve Carlton.

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2011 was the year Detroit Tigers fans saw their beloved baseball team go to the postseason for the first time since 2006. And Verlander led the charge the entire season, going 24-3 with a 2.40 ERA, both first in the league. His 24 wins were the most in the majors since Bob Welch of the Oakland Athletics went 27-6 in 1990.

That season Verlander also led the league in win percentage, games started, innings pitched, and strikeouts. He won the Cy Young unanimously, and captured the AL MVP award as well; the first pitcher to do so since Dennis Eckersley back in 1992. Back in 2011 after winning his array of awards Verlander said “I think that a starting pitcher has to do something special to be as valuable or more so than a position player.” He did just that.

It’s hard to believe that a pitcher whose coming off a 4.54 ERA 2014 season was once the most feared person on the mound, but Verlander’s 2011 season was nothing short of incredible. But judging by the signs, he may be back on track for redemption.

Back in 2012, when he was asked by Conan O’Brien what the secret to his success was, Verlander gave it to us straight: (Dialogue courtesy of Yahoo! Sports)

"Verlander: “The night before, as you can tell from my amazing physique, I eat Taco Bell.”Conan: “You eat Taco Bell the night before you pitch, every time?”Verlander: (looks toward camera) “Yes, the night before every start. You’re welcome, Taco Bell.”Conan: “It also results in your gameday diarrhea tradition.”Verlander: (laughing) “Right?”Conan: (looks and points toward camera) “You’re welcome, Taco Bell … I’m curious, do you get a specific food at Taco Bell?”Verlander: “Same thing every time. Three crunchy taco supremes, no tomato. Cheesy gordita crunch. And a Mexican pizza, no tomato.”"

Maybe with Kate Upton at his side, JV hasn’t had time to chow down on economically-priced Mexican cuisine. Who knows? According to the Detroit Free Press, Verlander says he’s on the up and up, and is feeling like him old self.

“Really good…I feel great” Verlander replied when asked how felt. So it looks like those cheesy gordita crunches have found their way back to JV’s plate.

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