call it a comeback
Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander wins Comeback Player of the Year award
Two years ago, Houston Astros All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander underwent serious Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. At 37, he faced a long rehab, missed the entire 2021 season, and faced down a potential end to his illustrious, Cy Young-winning career.
But that was two years ago. Fast forward to 2022, where Verlander has another World Series title, another Cy Young Award, and now, the 2022 American League Comeback Player of the Year, announced late Tuesday, November 22.
The 39-year-old Verlander becomes the first Astros player to score the award.
Officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball, the Comeback Player of the Year Awards have been presented each year since 2005 to one player in each league who has re-emerged on the field during the season. Beat reporters from 30 MLB teams select the winners from an original list of 30 candidates (one per MLB club).
This year marked the first season back after Tommy John surgery, a season where Verlander posted an American League-leading 18 wins and an astounding 1.75 ERA — the lowest in Astros full-season history. By the numbers, Verlander’s ERA is the lowest posted by an AL pitcher in a full season since Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez had a 1.74 ERA in his Cy Young season of 2000, per MLB stats.
In his 12 starts following an Astros loss, Verlander went 9-0 with a 1.11 ERA (9ER/73IP), per the Astros.
On November 10, Verlander opted out of his Astros deal and became a free agent. "I've kind of committed to myself that we're on this journey, and this journey has been incredible," he told reporters on a conference call after winning his third Cy Young on November 16.
Verlander will clearly test free agency and may not return. But between his World Series ring, Cy Young Award, and now Comeback Player of the Year honor, 2022 will be truly historic for the pitcher and the Astros.