The reunion of Justin Verlander to the Detroit Tigers is out the window but don’t worry Tigers fans, the team will be just fine.
After the rampant rumors of Justin Verlander heading to a series of teams, his brother, Ben, broke the news that Verlander was returning back to Houston for a one-year deal worth $25 million with an option for a second year. So the dream scenario of him returning in a Detroit Tigers uniform is gone.
If there is one trait that is true for any fan base across any sport, they all enjoy the sweet feeling of nostalgia. The general public loves remembering the “good ole days”. In 2021, for most Tigers fans now, it’s now the 2006-2014 time period, one of the best eras of Tigers baseball. The 1984 Tigers, Al Kaline, Ernie Harwell, all things associated with the great history in Detroit, fans care about the team. Heck, even a Kevin Saucier reference can get an older fan to smile.
Where is this all going? It is as simple as this quote. “Study the past if you are going to determine the future”. Was Confucius discussing baseball? No, but it applies to why there are two reasons why Tigers will be fine without Justin Verlander.
How does post Tommy John surgery look past the age of 35?
When Verlander was throwing for teams a few weeks back, it was impressive that he was throwing at 95 MPH. For just coming back, the velocity was there. The teams that were interested in his services jumped up. For being known for his work ethic, this came as no surprise to no one, even at the age of 37.
"“I will approach this rehab the only way I know: attack and don’t look back,” Verlander said. “I’m confident that with a proper rehabilitation program and my unwavering commitment that this surgery will ultimately lengthen my career as opposed to shortening it.”"
Verlander has had his best strikeout numbers in his career between the ages of 33 and 36. He won his second Cy Young in Houston. The accolades he put together for the Astros make his resume stand out.
However, the amount of starting pitchers who have had the surgery after the age of 37 years old is just two pitchers in Bronson Arroyo and Jamie Moyer. Arroyo took 33 months to recover and wasn’t the same innings eater that saw him have seven seasons in which he threw 200 innings or more. He retired shortly after the season he came back at the age of 40.
Same for Moyer but in this case, comparing an innings-eater starter who essentially pitched to contact and a classic junkball lefty to JV is a stretch but what Verlander is attempting to do is since he is such a power pitcher will be a different journey than those two but the examples of starters with TJ is a small sample size. The road ahead for Verlander will be filled with challenges but ones he could certainly meet.
For relievers, Tigers fans may remember Joe Nathan, who had TJ surgery and then quickly disappeared off the roster. But beyond that, the ones at the age of 37 or older have come back continued to pitch. Arthur Rhodes pitched for several more seasons including an All-Star nod at the age of 40.
Relievers pitch less than starters but don’t take away you have to still be effective and a few have succeeded to find success post Tommy John surgery.
The Detroit Tigers have other issues to address.
They are still hunting for a long-term solution at shortstop with names like Carlos Corera and Trevor Story, which reportedly the Tigers have shown interest in. Another issue that can be debated is whether they sign or make a trade for a veteran bat for the outfield. Lastly, another lefty to complement Gregory Soto could a long way.
Joey Wentz is on his way back up in his second-year post TJ surgery and Alex Fadeo will also be back. There is minor league depth in the infield to address and another starter to sign to join Eduardo Rodriguez in the rotation that could come after the CBA agreement is settled. There will be low-cost options to choose from.
The Confucius quote is what the Tigers are attempting to put into practice. They are working on being smarter with their signings, establishing methods to make their players better and it shows with the improvements in the pitching department and some progress among the arms in the minor league system.
Instead of repeating past mistakes in the past, (signing pitchers and hoping they could be flipped, lack of minor league depth across all positions) we are witnessing a change within the organization with more changes on the horizon.
Enjoy the Justin Verlander memories, totally acceptable but remember one thing Detroit Tigers fans, his plaque in Cooperstown will have him wearing the old English D.