A New York Yankee fan’s look at Justin Verlander

Verlander’s career has been one long success story and if I had to bet, I’d bet that he comes back from the Tommy John surgery strong and solid.

I’m a transplant from the Midwest, Fort Wayne, Indiana, to be exact. It’s a great town if you love sports because within a 3-4 hour drive in any direction you can be in Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, or Cincinnati. Most folks you meet are fans of one of these cities’ sports team(s).

It’s such an eclectic area of the country that I know people who are Cincinnati Reds, Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Blackhawk fans all at once!

So it was somewhere around 2007-2008, that I had tickets to see Justin Verlander pitch at Comerica Park against the Chicago White Sox and I unfortunately missed the game for another commitment. Since that time, I have watched Verlander pitch with appreciation and deep respect for his accomplishments and success.

When Verlander went to the Houston Astros in 2017, my heart was broken – I’ve never been an Astros fan, obviously.

I had been a Verlander fan since he came up in 2005 and have watched as he turned a good career into a Hall of Fame career winning two Cy Young Awards along the way.

Presently, I live on the East Coast and am a Chicago Cub fan turned Yankee fan. I was converted by my husband during the 1998 season – what a year to become a Yankee fan!

When Verlander went to the Houston Astros, he seemed to snub his nose at the Bronx. Major League Baseball fans watched as he was a key to the Astros win in the 2017 World Series.

Fast-forward past a cheating scandal and Tommy John surgery and Verlander appears ready to leave Houston. According to Talkin’ Yanks on November 16th:

“ESPN’s Jeff Passan says Justin Verlander will sign this week, and he thinks the team he’ll sign with is the Yankees. Passan has no idea about Correa, but he does not think the Yankees are the right fit.”

With this news, Yankees Twitter was lit all day with rumors and speculation about what seemed an all but done deal.

Typical of the anti-Verlander comments: he’s 38 coming off Tommy John surgery and has only thrown 6 innings since 2019. Why would the Yankees want another reclamation project? Referring, of course, to last year’s signings of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, both of whom were coming off serious injuries.

There’s no real convincing response to this except to say that Verlander’s career has been one long success story and if I had to bet, I’d bet that he comes back from the Tommy John surgery strong and solid.

In 2019, Verlander led the league in innings pitched and won the second Cy Young Award of his career (his first with Detroit in 2011). That’s the upside – that’s what you potentially get when you sign Verlander, an elite bulldog who will grind out innings and always keep the team in the game.

No matter how you look at it, it is a crapshoot what Verlander will bring to the game after the surgery and Yankee fans are not patient. I have to believe that if Verlander comes to the Bronx it will be because he believes he can still perform at a very high level.

Kluber’s no hitter in May of ’21 was one of the highlights of a frustrating and inconsistent season for the Yankees. I’d still take it despite losing Kluber until August afterwards. For one outing, fans got vintage Kluber and no doubt he will continue his success with another team in ’22.

If the Yankees sign Verlander, it will be with the hope that they can catch lightning in a bottle and he can reprise his power pitching performances of years past.

The Yankees front office hopes that bringing Verlander in would propel this team to a championship, otherwise there’s no reason to sign him.

As a Yankee fan and a baseball fan, I’m all in on bringing Verlander to the Bronx. To have Cole and Verlander sharing the workload at the top of the rotation guarantees excitement and high level performances.

2020 MLB Defensive Short Stop Rankings: Trevor Story on Top

2020 was a surprising year for Major League Baseball – perhaps most surprising of all is completing even a 60 game season and crowning a champion.

For every player 2020 presented a challenge. Elite shortstops such as Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians and Andrelton Simmons of the Los Angeles Angels seemed to have down years defensively, while Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves and Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies rose to the top of the league.

Below is my ranking of defensive shortstops in MLB based on the following combination of factors:

NameWARFPDRSUZR
Trevor Story2.5.96154.0
Dansby Swanson1.9.97410-4.4
Tim Anderson2.2.9673-2,3
Francisco Lindor1.7.98125.8
Adalberto Mondesi1.4.98320.8

Now, depending on which defensive metric you have the most faith in, Fielding Percentage, Defensive Runs Saved, or Ultimate Zone Rating, this seems like a defensible ranking of defensive shortstops in MLB in 2020, perhaps with the exception of leaving out Fernando Tatis, Jr., who would certainly be number six on the list, considering his total WAR of 2.9, his impressive .984 Fielding Percentage, yet rather average numbers for DRS, a 1 and UZR, 0.9.

I would be likely to place the most emphasis on UZR in the context of a 162 game season, but Fangraphs warns of placing too much emphasis on UZR with small sample sizes:

Beware of sample sizes! If a player only spent 50 innings at a position last season, it’d be a good idea not to draw too many conclusions from their UZR score over that time. Like with any defensive statistic, you should always use three years of UZR data before trying to draw any conclusions on the true talent level of a fielder.

Not being a statistical wizard, let me say that if we looked at three years’ worth of defensive statistics for each of the shortstops in the league, we would know who the top player is over that time period. However, 2020, for all it’s weirdness, was a season, and it has its distinctive place in the history of the sport.

So the shortened season makes somewhat of a mockery of the statistics, but they’re all we have for estimating, even in a cursory way, what player accomplishments are.