Every pitcher in baseball is going to dream about returning from Tommy John surgery like Justin Verlander.
The Houston Astros ace, a free agent this offseason, won the 2022 American League Cy Young Award on Wednesday, the final accolade recognizing the right-hander’s historic comeback from one of baseball’s most dreaded surgeries.
Verlander and the NL Cy Young winner, Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara, both won the award unanimously. It is the second time in MLB history both awards have been unanimous, the other time being 1968 (Bob Gibson and Denny McLain).
It is also the third time Verlander has won MLB’s top pitching award, after winning it in 2011 (plus MVP) with the Detroit Tigers and in 2019 with the Astros.
Verlander missed the entire 2021 season after going under the knife in September 2020, but returned in time for the beginning of this season. From start to finish, he didn’t just look like the ace MLB hitters have known all too well for the last 15 years. He was better.
He led all of MLB with a 1.75 ERA, the best mark by a pitcher at least 39 years old since the actual Cy Young, while striking out 185 in 175 innings. His 0.829 WHIP also led MLB, and his 18 wins were the highest total in the AL.
The other half of Verlander’s dream season was winning his second World Series ring and notching his first win in a World Series game, on his fifth appearance in the Fall Classic. Few things haunt a pitcher like injury woes and postseason woes, and Verlander managed to slay both of them in one year.
The only question now is where will Verlander play next year. He just hit free agency for the first time in his career and should have no shortage of suitors.
Justin Verlander joins exclusive company with 3rd Cy Young win
Every statistical list intended to determine baseball’s all-time greats is going to have its oversights and stretches, but the list of three-time Cy Young winners is a pretty solid one. And now Verlander’s a part of it.
The list of pitchers to receive at least three Cy Youngs is now Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Verlander.
Other than Clemens (for obvious reasons), every pitcher on that list is a Hall of Famer or will become a Hall of Famer at some point in the next 10 years.