Sunday, September 4, 2011

Justin Verlander

His father Richard, who was president of the local Richmond, Virginia chapter of the Communications Workers of America, told him to play baseball. Richard gave up catching Justin's ball because of the velocity, and sent Justin to The Richmond Baseball Academy. Justin clocked 84 mph shortly after joining the academy. The velocity kept getting faster and it passed 93 when he entered Goochland High School. He had been a top pitching prospect in high school, but his career suffered a setback when he came down with strep throat early in his senior season of baseball. A weakened Verlander topped out at 86 during that season, causing professional scouts to lose interest. After he recovered, his velocity reached 100 during his first year at Old Dominion. Verlander played on the DeWitt Panthers AAA team that placed fourth in the nation. The tournament was played in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Verlander, a 6' 5", 200 pound (1.96 m, 91 kg) right-hander, pitched for the Old Dominion University baseball team for three years. On May 17, 2002, he struck out a then school record 17 batters against James Madison. In 2003, he set a school single-season record by recording 139 strikeouts; in 2004, he broke his own record and established a new Colonial Athletic Association record with 151 strikeouts. Verlander completed his career as the all-time strikeout leader in Old Dominion, the Colonial Athletic Association and the Commonwealth of Virginia (Division I) history with 427 in 335⅔ innings. During his three years, he averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and his career collegiate earned run average was 2.57. Verlander pitched for Team USA in 2003 and helped the USA to a silver medal in the Pan Am Games. He was named CAA Rookie of the Year in 2002 and earned All-CAA honors in 2003 and 2004. Verlander was named the ODU Alumni Association's Male Athlete of the Year in 2004, and was the second overall pick in the 2004 Baseball draft by Detroit.

In his first full season, Verlander went 17–9 with a 3.63 ERA, striking out 124 batters in 186 innings. He received the Rookie of the Year award. On July 4, 2006, at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California, Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and Fernando Rodney each threw multiple fastballs clocked in at over 100 mph, becoming the first time in MLB history that three pitchers, on the same team, had done so during a game. He allowed only one stolen base in 2006 and picked off 7 baserunners. In 2006, he became the first rookie pitcher in the history of the game to win 10 games before the end of June, which eventually led to him being named Rookie of the Year at the end of the 2006 season. During Game 1 of the 2006 World Series, Verlander was the Tiger's starting pitcher against Anthony Reyes of the St. Louis Cardinals; the first time two rookies faced off to start a World Series.His success continued in 2007, as he accumulated 18 wins and posted a 3.66 ERA with 183 strikeouts 201⅔ innings. On June 12, Verlander recorded a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out 12 and hitting 102 MPH on the radar gun.In 2008, he started off poorly with 4 straight losses before winning his first game. He could not match his 2007 success and finished with a career low 11 wins, while posting career highs in losses (17) and ERA (4.84).His 2009 season proved successful. He finished with a 19–9 record with an ERA of 3.45 and an MLB-leading 269 strikeouts. Verlander finished 3rd in the 2009 AL Cy Young Award voting. On February 4, 2010, it was announced that Verlander and the Tigers had reached a deal for an $80 million, 5 year contract extension. On July 3, Verlander earned his 10th win of the season. This marked the fourth time in five years he has had double digit wins before the all-star break. On September 18 Verlander beat the Chicago White Sox, throwing a complete game to earn his 17th win of the season. With that win he became the first pitcher to win 17 games in 4 of his first 5 seasons since Dwight Gooden. He would finish 2010 with an 18-8 record and 3.37 ERA.

On April 22, Verlander recorded his 1,000th career strikeout in a 9–3 win over the White Sox, becoming the 15th Tiger to do so. On May 7 he recorded his second career no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays, throwing four strikeouts, walking one batter and throwing at a maximum speed of 101 MPH on the radar gun. He carried a perfect game into the 8th inning before surrendering a walk to J. P. Arencibia. Verlander became the second Tigers pitcher since Virgil Trucks, and the thirtieth pitcher in the history of baseball, to throw multiple no-hitters. On his next start, against the Kansas City Royals on May 13, Verlander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before surrendering a triple. Altogether, he pitched 15⅔ consecutive no-hit innings, spread over three starts. On June 14, Justin took a no-hitter into the eighth. He pitched 7⅓ innings until he gave up a base hit to Cleveland's Orlando Cabrera. Verlander ended up with a complete game shutout allowing two hits. In his next start on June 19, he threw another complete game allowing a solo home run to Ty Wigginton On June 26, he recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts against Arizona. On July 3, 2011, Verlander was selected to his fourth AL All-Star team, but he was unable to participate in the game due to the scheduling of his starts. On July 31, 2011, Verlander took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before surrenduring a single to Maicer Izturis. He walked two and struck out nine. On August 11th, Justin won his 100th major league game against the Cleveland Indians. On August 27th, he became the first pitcher in the major leagues to attain 20 wins in the current season. The victory also made Verlander the first Tiger since Bill Gullickson in 1991 to win 20 games, and the first major leaguer since Curt Schilling in 2002 to reach 20 wins before the end of August. He features two fastballs: a four-seamer in the high-90s (which routinely pushes and occasionally eclipses 100 MPH) and a two-seamer in the mid-90s with good swing-back movement. He also throws a 12-6 curveball in the 78-83 mph range, a circle changeup in the low to mid-80s, and a slider which he throws 83-89 mph.

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