Justin Verlander has an ideal shot at profitable the American League Cy Younger award this yr. He pieced collectively a dominant season — at age 39 — after recovering from Tommy John surgical procedure and helped lead the Houston Astros to a different World Collection.
Regardless of the common season dominance, Verlander as soon as once more struggled in what was his eighth Fall Basic begin. A Recreation 1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies — the righty hurler gave up six hits and 5 runs in 5 innings of labor — left the Houston Astros ace with an 0-6 report and 6.07 ERA in these eight appearances.
He has by no means gone deeper than six innings in any of them and his 2.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio in these video games is worse than he’s had in any season since 2014 — arguably the worst season of his profession.
It’s loopy to consider all of the individuals in historical past with immaculate common season data however horrendous showings within the postseason. Why does Aaron Decide undergo one of many biggest common seasons in MLB historical past simply to report a .490 OPS whereas putting out 15 occasions come October? Why did Jorge Soler hit underneath the Mendoza line with the Royals in 2021, but go berserk with Atlanta on his method to profitable the World Collection MVP? Why does Clayton Kershaw, arguably the best left-handed pitcher of our technology, have a profession 4.22 ERA within the postseason and a 4.49 ERA within the World Collection?
Baseball is bizarre, and typically the heroes and failures we witness in October don’t make any sense in any respect. Though, does any of that actually have an effect on how we understand gamers? I do know it could be simple to say “YES! Completely!” primarily based on what we’ve seen lately, but when we actually give it some thought, how a lot has postseason/World Collection success actually modified the general public’s notion of a participant?
Is Madison Bumgarner going to be enshrined in Cooperstown after he retires? Not at his current pace. If he were to reach the World Series next year and surrender 23 consecutive runs without recording an out, he’d still have a better World Series ERA than Justin Verlander, but how many of you would take prime Bumgarner over prime Verlander when building their teams? If any of you aren’t Giants fans and chose Bumgarner, I would heavily suggest getting your brain checked out. There isn’t any universe where prime Bumgarner is the better option over the course of multiple seasons. Hell, even after his incredible 2014 World Series MVP performance, when Bumgarner hype was skyrocketing faster than Elon Musk’s ego, MLB general managers still claimed that they would’ve rather had Kershaw than MadBum, and at that point in his career, Kershaw had a 5.12 postseason ERA and had never appeared in a World Series.
The same goes for others in similar boats. Cole Hamels was never seriously thought of as a better pitcher than CC Sabathia. Pablo Sandoval was never considered a better hitter than Robinson Canó (OK maybe immediately following the 2009 season). And Lord knows David Freese was never on the same level as David Wright. Despite all the latter players having struggled mightily in their postseason careers, most of them are held in rather high regard in fan circles, while the earlier players might be looked back upon fondly, but never given a second thought when it comes to Hall of Fame credentials.
It goes both ways though. While postseason excellence certainly doesn’t hurt a player’s legacy, most of the time, that success becomes a footnote rather than the forefront of the player’s greatness. Unless said player had a legendarily good stretch spanning multiple postseason runs like Reggie Jackson or Derek Jeter, the postseason gets forgotten about in most players’ careers. Everybody knows Willie Mays was on-deck when Bobby Thomson hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” and went on to be a world champion that same year, but do we ever talk about how Mays then went on to record pretty mediocre numbers the rest of his postseason career? No. We remember 660 regular-season home runs. We remember 12 top-six MVP finishes in 13 seasons between 1954 and 1966.
When discussing Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame credentials, do we talk about how he never won a World Series and hit .245 across 48 career postseason games? No. The discussion usually revolves around PEDs and/or him being the all-time MLB home run leader and the only member of the 500-500 club.
Justin Verlander might not have what it takes to be an elite postseason pitcher, but that doesn’t take away from anything else he’s done. Are we forgetting that he was undoubtedly the best pitcher in the American League this year? Are we forgetting that he’s a 39-year-old, soon-to-be three-time Cy Young winner who’ll likely command $25-$30 million if he hits the open market next year? No, and no amount of poor World Series starts will take away from his Hall of Fame candidacy. If we’re being real, he’d have to have a 20.00 ERA in the World Series for him to not be a first-ballot entry at this point.