Why Justin Verlander is Worth Every Penny the Tigers Haven't Paid Him

Justin Verlander is better than me.  His name is equally awesome, but he is better.  There's no doubt about that.  When you see my 47 mph fastball sail high and outside, striking the chain-link backstop with a soft thud, you can see this as clear as day.  But I can take solace in the fact that he is better than just about anyone who is currently in the business of throwing baseballs.  In fact, Verlander is arguably (or unarguably - if that's a word - the best in my opinion) the best pitcher in all of baseball.  He has a unique ability.  He throws harder as the game goes on.  Rather than let fatigue take him out of a game, Verlander is a throwback to old school pitchers.  He gets better as the game goes on.  He cranks it up to over 100 mph in the late innings - very similar to myself (not true).

The qualities described above have led to Verlander winning two Cy Young awards in his career and one MVP.  A pitcher winning the MVP is rare enough on its own, but Verlander managed to sweep the awards season last year with both the Cy Young and the MVP.  But beyond the awards, Verlander is plain and simply good.  He's great, really.  He has two no-hitters and could easily have four or five with a couple lucky breaks.  So, for all the success he has had, Verlander has been handsomely compensated.  But he's worth more, and the Tigers know that.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Tigers want to make Justin Verlander a Tiger for life.  Their GM, Dave Dombrowski has made no secret of his desire to keep Verlander in Detroit for his entire career.  To do so, the Tigers will have to open their wallets - further than they're already open, of course.  Detroit's spending on Prince Fielder was nice, but to lock up Verlander, they may have to break the bank.  And they should.

Detroit has reached the World Series twice now with Justin Verlander taking the hill every fifth day.  In 2006, he was a skinny rookie.  He struggled mightily in the entire 2006 postseason, especially the World Series.  This season, he had a marvelous postseason until Game One of the World Series.  But the fact is, the Tigers may never have reached the World Series in either year without Verlander.

In 2006, Verlander won the American League Rookie of the Year.  He won 17 games which as many of us know may not be a good measure of a pitcher's success.  But it's pretty impressive.  He posted a 3.63 ERA that season.  Unfortunately, the Tigers met their match when they faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.  Verlander wasn't done, though.  Since that phenomenal rookie season, Verlander has only had one season in which he posted an ERA over 3.70.  In 2008, he struggled and posted a 4.84 ERA.  He lost a league-high 17 games that season, but he didn't let that terrible year derail him.

In his career, Verlander has posted a 3.40 ERA.  He has struck out 1,450 batters and could very well strike out 3,000 in his career.  Verlander has won 124 games.  He may not reach 300, but he wants to.  He wants a lot of things, like a World Series ring and a place in Cooperstown.  If you watch him, you quickly realize Verlander could achieve almost any goal he sets.  You just don't bet against a guy who is so confident, so focused that he sets the goal of throwing a no-hitter in every start.  He sets the goal of being a Hall of Famer once his career ends.

Verlander's determination aside*, the Tigers have already seen what he means to their team.  If you're a fan of WAR, he has already had three seasons in which he has been worth more than five wins.  If you're a fan of the eye-test, Verlander looks like a dominant pitcher in almost every start.  Even when someone collects a hit against him, the pitch was usually a nasty one.  So what does that all mean?  It means the Tigers are going to shell out some cash if Verlander is to spend his whole career in Detroit.

*Verlander has always facisnated me in the way he approaches his craft.  He is unafraid to admit that he wants to throw a no-hitter, that he wants to ultimately end up in the Hall of Fame.  This is the type of attitude we could all use more of in our lives.  This is the type of attitude that breeds success. 

But how much?  How much is the shot of a World Series title year in and year out worth?  How much is a future Hall of Famer worth?  Verlander is currently signed to a five-year, $79.5 million deal.  The staggered deal has him making $20 million a year in his final three seasons of the contract (including this year).  This means a career-long deal in Detroit is likely going to cost the Tigers about $25 million a year.  To that, I say do it.  He has never been sidelined by a serious injury.  In fact, Verlander has started 30 or more games in every season since his abbreviated 2006 season.

When you step into a museum do you question the reasoning behind a particular piece's inclusion in the gallery?  When you watch a pitcher work magic on a small hill 60 feet, six inches away from home plate, do you question the contract?  No.  You admire the art.  The Tigers need to pay whatever it takes for their masterpiece.  Justin Verlander is priceless.

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