To say that it was a rough season for Justin Verlander last year would be an understatement — by his standards at least. The 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP Award winner finished the year with a 13-12 record, one of the worst of his career. After having core muscle surgery the offseason, the Detroit Tigers‘ ace looks to return to his Cy Young-winning form this season, which will make an already dangerous Tigers team be even better.
Verlander has looked phenomenal this spring training, giving up zero runs in three starts (13.2 IP) and striking out 10 batters in the process. His latest start came today against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he tossed 6.1 scoreless innings, fanning seven Phillies in the process. This was Verlander’s final start before he takes the mound for the Tigers on Opening Day against the Kansas City Royals next Monday.
JV leads a Tigers rotation that is one of, if not the best in all of baseball. Following Verlander is reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, followed by Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly. With all due respect to Scherzer and the rest of the pitchers, Verlander is the leader of this staff and one of the faces of the franchise (along with Miguel Cabrera).
If he can come out and return to his dominating form this season, it will set the tone for the rest of the pitching staff to repeat their success from last year.
With a dominating pitching rotation, along with a fearsome lineup and improved bullpen, the Tigers are set to win yet another AL Central division title this season. Their success beyond that, however, may be dependent on how well Verlander pitches this year.