Where would the Tigers be this season without Justin Verlander? Certainly not competing for first place in the American League Central. He’s 7 and 0 in his last nine games, and has thrown back-to-back complete games, something that’s unheard of these days. He’s already started and finished four games, equaling his total for all of last year. Not to mention his no hitter. My colleague Jeff Lesson has started calling him “Cy” Verlander, and it certainly seems like he’s a good shot to win the American League Cy Young award this season. But after Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson got shut out of their post season awards last year, I’m not ready to hand him the award just yet.
Verlander should be a good bet to start the All Star Game for the American League this year. Unfortunately, he may be the only Tiger to start in the game, despite the fact that at least two others deserve the starting nod. Alex Avilla is leading AL catchers in nearly every offensive category, but he’s trailing in the fan voting behind the Yankees Russel Martin and Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, who isn’t even playing! Jhonny Peralta is also having a great year at shortstop, but is also unlikely to top fan favorites like Derek Jeter, who is on the disabled list and having a poor year. I say it every year, but to deaf ears, that it’s time to change the way All Star voting is held. Fan votes should count for one third, along with one third for players and one third for the reporters who cover baseball on a regular basis. If Major League Baseball really wants to say that “Now, the All Star game counts,” to determine which league gets home field advantage, then MLB officials should make sure the best players in both leagues are chosen.
Even though Verlander is off to a terrific start, there are still those who question whether he is really an “elite” pitcher. The best way for Verlander to remove those doubts is for him to lead the Tigers to the Post Season, then carry the team on his right arm and back to a World Series Championship, to join the ranks of Roy Halliday, Tim Lincecum, and others who have already put themselves in that category.