Jusitin Verlander is having a season that approaches the best of Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan.
A disclaimer is necessary.
It is not being claimed that Justin Verlander’s 2011 season will equal the best single seasons of the above Hall of Famers (Pedro is a first ballot shoe-in). It is being pointed out that Verlander’s 2011 season is not too far removed from the best seasons that four of the greatest ever pitchers produced.
Verlander has started 27 games, winning 18 while losing five. He should make six or seven more starts to finish with between 20 and 23 wins. That is excellent, but not remarkable, even today.
Martinez’s career high in wins was 23 in 1999. The only other time Pedro won 20 games was in 2002.
It is difficult to believe, but Greg Maddux was a 20-game winner only once. In 1992, while still with the Chicago Cubs, he was 20-11.
Sandy Koufax had a brief career, but his peak seasons were remarkable. In his last season, which was 1966, Koufax won 27 games. He won 26 in 1965 and 25 in 1963.
Nolan Ryan won 22 games with the California Angels in 1973 and followed that with 21 wins in 1974. That was it for Nolan with respect to winning at least 20 games in a season.
Now to more meaningful achievements, since we all know (but do not all accept) that wins are overrated.
Justin Verlander has pitched 202 and two-thirds innings. He has allowed 136 hits, which calculates to 6.04 hits per nine innings.
In 1972, Ryan set the single-season record when he held batters to 5.26 hits per nine innings.
Maddux’ best was 6.31 in 1995, Koufax’ best was 5.79 in 1965 and Pedro’s best was 5.31 in 2000.
Walks are almost as harmful to a pitcher as hits. As the great Frankie Frisch used to lament, “Oh, those bases on balls,” which brings us to WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched).
PITCHER: LOWEST WHIP
Martinez: 0.7373 in 2000
Maddux: 0.8108 in 1995
Koufax: 0.8550 in 1965
Ryan: 1.0058 in 1991
VERLANDER: 0.8980 in 2011
Verlander has a 2.31 ERA in the league with the designated hitter, but a more impressive statistic is his ERA+ (ERA adjusted for the ballpark each pitcher pitches in).
PITCHER: BEST ERA+
Martinez: 291 in 2000
Maddux: 271 in 1994
Koufax: 190 in 1966
Ryan: 195 in 1981
VERLANDER: 169 in 2011
Justin Verlander leads American League pitchers in allowing the lowest batting average (.187), lowest on-base average (.233), lowest slugging average (.295) and most strikeouts (204).
There are some outstanding pitchers in today’s game. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Jared Weaver, C.C. Sabathia, Cole Hamels and Josh Beckett lead a short but incomplete list. Verlander is having a better season than any of them.
Unless the unlikely occurs, he will win the Cy Young Award with ease.