It’s silly to have to say this, really, but there have been some suggestions that Justin Verlander should not be on the American League’s All-Star team this season, so I’d like to put that bunk to bed. Verlander is still one of the best pitchers in the game, and he most certainly does belong on the All Star team.
The players did not vote Verlander on to the all star team this year, and they were wrong to leave him off. Manager Jim Leyland correctly restored Verlander to the all star roster,- the only Tiger player that Leyland selected- although he will not be pitching since he pitched on Sunday.
The Tigers’ 2011 MVP and Cy Young winner is not having the kind of dominant season that he has had in recent seasons, but he has been plenty good. His ERA is elevated at 3.50, slightly higher than his career ERA of 3.42 and well above his Cy season when it was 2.40. He has also allowed more walks, 3.2 per nine innings, but his strikeout rate is a solid 9.2 per nine, which is above his career average, and his Fielding Independent Pitching is a very good 3.20. Of some concern is the fact that opponents are hitting over .300 against Verlander's four seam fastball.
Verlander still ranks among the league leaders in strikeout rate (fourth), WAR (sixth), and FIP (fifth). Most importantly, he gives his team a good chance to win almost every time he takes the mound. Verlander has allowed more than five runs only once this season and has not allowed a run five times this year. In fifteen of his twenty starts, he has held opponents to three runs or less.
Verlander belongs on the All Star team simply based on his performance in 2013, but the All Star roster should not be just a collection of the players who have performed best in just half a season. It is for stars, and Verlander is THE biggest star of our time among major league pitchers.
The second half of each season, when the pressure is on teams and players to help their teams into the post season, has to count for All Star consideration at some point, and Verlander was rock solid for the Tigers after the 2012 All Star game, going 8- 3 with an ERA of 2.73 and a WHIP of 1.17, and striking out 111 hitters. All those numbers are among the league’s elite, which is why he finished in a dead heat with David Price for the Cy Young voting again, missing out on the award by just one vote.
Perhaps we’ve been a little bit spoiled by Verlander’s dominance in recent years. Or maybe the fact that the Tigers have four legitimate all stars in their rotation, in Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, and Sanchez, with all four ranked among the top nine in the league in WAR this season. But any way you slice it, Verlander is an all star pitcher if there ever was one.