Twice as nice: Ex-Tiger Justin Verlander wins second Cy Young
New York — Justin Verlander has a second American League Cy Young Award — and a clear path paved toward Cooperstown.
Verlander beat out teammate Gerrit Cole in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America revealed Wednesday. Verlander got 17 first-place votes to 13 for Cole, who became a free agent after the season.
The 36-year-old Verlander won his first Cy Young with the Tigers in 2011, when he was also named Most Valuable Player, and has since been a three-time runner-up.
“The adversity I went through puts a new perspective on everything,” Verlander said. “I mean, still would’ve liked to have won a couple of them.”
Since 2011, Verlander (two), Max Scherzer (three), David Price and Rick Porcello have combined to win seven Cy Young awards. They all were part of the Tigers rotation during their run in the early 2010s.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom won the National League prize for the second straight year. He received 29 of 30 first-place votes, becoming the 11th pitcher to win Cy Youngs in consecutive years. He and Verlander are the 20th and 21st players to win the award multiple times.
Verlander continued a marvelous second act to his career since a 2017 trade from Detroit to Houston. He led the majors with 21 victories and padded his Hall of Fame resume by getting his 3,000th strikeout in his final start of the regular season. He also reached 300 punchouts in a season for the first time.
Verlander no-hit Toronto on Sept. 1, becoming the sixth pitcher with three no-hitters in a career. He joined a group that includes Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller and Cy Young, along with 1880s pitcher Larry Corcoran.
Forget about slowing down — Verlander’s goal this offseason is to add velocity to his top-end fastball. He’s thinking about using weighted balls and other new-age throwing techniques.
“I will always try to push the boundaries of what I can do,” Verlander said. “If my body says, ‘Hold on, you can’t do that anymore,’ then I’ll pull back.”
The case between Verlander and Cole was tight. Cole had more strikeouts (326) and a lower ERA (2.50), but Verlander threw 10.2 more innings and won more games. They are the first set of teammates to finish 1-2 in AL voting; it’s happened five times in the NL.
Verlander and Cole pitched Houston to the World Series, where Cole continued to dominate while Verlander faltered. The right-hander lost twice to the champion Washington Nationals — a letdown not factored in voting that concluded before the postseason began.
He’s hoping to take another run at a title — with Cole — next season.
“I know that Gerrit had a great time playing here and I know he would like to return, if possible,” Verlander said. “But that is now on Gerrit and his family and people above me.”
Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Charlie Morton finished third a year after leaving Houston in free agency.
DeGrom is in special company as a repeat NL winner, joining Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw and Scherzer.
“It was a dream to play this game and a dream to win one Cy Young,” deGrom said. “To win back to back was a goal. It’s hard to explain. You set these goals, but it almost doesn’t feel real yet.”
The 31-year-old led the NL with 255 strikeouts and posted a 2.43 ERA. His resume was bolstered by his durability — deGrom totaled 204 innings, compared to 182.2 for runner-up Hyun-Jin Ryu and 172.1 for Scherzer, the Nationals ace who finished third.
A year after taking the award despite just 10 victories — fewest ever by a starting pitcher — deGrom earned 11 wins with a Mets team that’s struggled to support him.
After signing a $137.5-million, five-year deal to remain with New York shortly before opening day, deGrom wasn’t so dominant early in the season. He got hit around in April and May, even allowing seven runs in an outing against the last-place Marlins.
The embarrassment in Miami was a wake-up call for the gritty deGrom. Following that loss, he went 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA over his final 23 starts. DeGrom wrapped up the season with 23 consecutive scoreless innings.
“I feel like I was trying to better what I did in 2018,” he said, adding “I think that was something I struggled with to start this year, was kind of dwelling on what happened last year. Kind of not focusing on the task ahead as much as I probably should have.”
Awards week wraps Thursday with the announcement of AL and NL MVPs.