20 The Magic Number?
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He did it. Justin Verlander has now won 20 games, the first Tiger pitcher to achieve that feat since Bill Gullickson did it in 1991. And tell the truth, would you have known the answer to that trivia question? I didn’t remember it. And honestly, I don’t even remember Gullickson having that much impact on the team. Certainly not like Jack Morris or Denny McClain or Mickey Lolich. Or even the great Mark Fidrych, who won 19 games in 1976 and never really did much after that. But that one amazing year is a time no one who was around back then will ever forget.
So why is 20 considered the mark of success for a pitcher? Just like a .300 average for a batter, which, as others have pointed out, means the hitter has failed to get a hit seven times out of 10. While I’m happy Verlander won 20, I’m more impressed with how consistent he’s been all season. I mean, who doesn’t like all those strike outs, an ERA just over two, and a fast ball that can hit 100 mph. And let’s not forget that no hitter. But this year, Verlander has made the leap from being a very good pitcher to one of the elite hurlers in baseball. When he takes the mound, you can be confident that the Tigers will come away with a win that day.
The Tigers are sitting pretty in last August, in first place with a six game lead. But there’s still a lot of baseball to play. And I still have questions about the rotation. If the playoffs opened right now, I think the Tigers would go with Verlander, Scherzer and Fister to start. They might not need a fourth starter, at least not for the first round. If they did, they would probably go with Porcello, and then Penny if needed. But Brad Penney really needs to pitch more effectively, or he might find himself out of the rotation. Rookie sensation Jacob Turner is set to get another start on Thursday. But the Tigers have him on a strict pitch and innings count, so I doubt he would figure in to any post season plans.