Justin Verlander an early favorite for AL Cy Young Award

The former MVP is off to a fantastic start in his first full season in Houston

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Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander is showing why he’s the ace of the defending World Series champs’ rotation early in the year. If the season were to end today, he’d own the best ERA, WHIP and opponent batting average in the league. His early season success has also kept the Astros in first place all year, proving that this team differs from the 2017 Chicago Cubs by a long shot. 

Absolute dominance

Verlander has done it all, winning the AL MVP and Cy Young Award in 2011 and a World Series with the Astros last fall. Perhaps at this point in his career, reaching milestones could be Verlander’s focus rather than going for more championships, but the 35-year-old doesn’t appear to be losing any gas either, as it looks like he’s gotten better as the year has gone.

Statistic Verlander AL Rank
ERA 1.08 1st
WHIP 0.71 1st
Wins 6 T-2nd
Opponent BA .148 1st
Strikeouts 93 3rd
Innings Pitched 74.2 1st

Verlander is the league leader in almost every major pitching category, and it looks as if he’s found his old dominance back once again after some mediocre seasons with the Detroit Tigers. After his 2011 season, Verlander only had one season with an ERA under three and from 2013 to 2015, he was 33-32 with a 3.84 ERA. He finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2016 after going 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA but before getting traded to the Astros, Verlander’s struggles returned, going 10-8 with a 3.82 ERA in his final season with the Tigers.

Another thing to note with Verlander’s early success is that it’s also rubbing off on his teammates in the rotation, making the Astros the best pitching team in the league. Newcomer Gerrit Cole and a newly dominant Charlie Morton are second and third in the AL in ERA and opponent batting average.  Verlander’s presence in the Astros clubhouse was a huge boost for a club that ended up winning their first World Series as a franchise last year and the club is looking to do it again in 2018.

A clear and early favorite

Because Verlander is on the Astros, it would be easy to say at this point he’d be an early favorite to win the second AL Cy Young Award of his career. Verlander is having the best start to his career coming into today compared to his Cy Young year in 2011. It’ll be difficult to pass 24 wins in a season again, for no one has come close to that mark since he achieved it seven years ago, but if he keeps his ERA under two during the regular season, like he is now, he’ll finish in the top three at worst in the Cy Young Award voting.

Statistic 2011 Verlander (thru May 24) 2018 Verlander (thru May 24)
Win-Loss 4-3 6-2
ERA 3.42 1.08
Innings Pitched 79.0 74.2
Strikeouts 73 93
Opponent BA .194 .148
WHIP 0.96 0.71
BABIP .224 .210

The numbers in 2018 support Verlander’s case for the Cy Young Award if the season were to end today. At this point in the season, Verlander is doing better than he did when he won the award and MVP in 2011. If he keeps this up, he could be a strong candidate for the MVP award for the second time in his career too. Playing for one of the best teams in baseball will also give him the attention he deserves.

Verlander has rediscovered himself in his short time with the Astros and he couldn’t have done it at a better time. Baseball will be fun in Houston for years to come and as long as Verlander is keeping his groove like he is now, the Astros could win multiple World Series titles behind Verlander and that could mean more Cy Young trophies for the future Hall of Famer before he hangs up the cleats for good.