HOUSTON -- When he won his first American League Cy Young Award with the Tigers at 28 years old in 2011, Justin Verlander figured there would be a chance to earn a few more. Three agonizingly close second-place finishes started to seep doubt into Verlander’s mind about his chances of
HOUSTON -- When he won his first American League Cy Young Award with the Tigers at 28 years old in 2011, Justin Verlander figured there would be a chance to earn a few more. Three agonizingly close second-place finishes started to seep doubt into Verlander’s mind about his chances of ever winning the award again.
Verlander, who lost by four points to David Price in ‘12, five points to Rick Porcello in ‘16 and 15 points to Blake Snell last year, proved to be as good as ever in 2019 and held off teammate Gerrit Cole in another close vote to win his second AL Cy Young Award and first as a member of the Astros.
“It was starting to become disappointing every time I came so close and it just didn’t happen,” said Verlander, who had 13 first-place votes last year to Snell’s 17. “I put up some historic numbers in the history of baseball [in ‘18], and every time somebody had done something similar, they had won the Cy Young. Is it meant to be for me to win another one? I don’t want to call [winning a second] a relief, because it wasn’t. It just put things in perspective and made it all the better, all the more exciting for me and my family.”
Verlander and Cole finished first or second on all 30 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, with Verlander taking 17 first-place votes for 171 points and Cole getting 13 first-place votes for 159 points. Their former teammate, Charlie Morton of the Rays, finished a distant third with 75 points.
• Complete awards coverage
“Justin Verlander is a stud,” Cole said in a text message to MLB.com. ‘It was a pleasure to run alongside him this summer. Congratulations!"
Verlander is the fourth Astros pitcher to win the Cy Young Award and second in the AL, joining Dallas Keuchel (2015). Mike Scott (1986) and Roger Clemens (2004) won the award in the National League. Verlander and Cole are the first set of teammates to finish 1-2 in Cy Young voting since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did it in back-to-back seasons in Arizona in 2001-02. That had happened only twice previously before Johnson and Schilling and never in the AL.
“Wow, what a year,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “I offer congrats to JV on an incredible accomplishment, especially given his competition. He led our pitching staff in so many ways and continued to dominate all season. He was every bit the workhorse and consistent starter, both defining characteristics of an ace. I’m happy for him to be recognized yet again. Job well done.”
At age 36, Verlander had one of the best seasons of his career, perhaps trailing the 2011 season in which he won his first Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. In 34 starts this year, he went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA with 300 strikeouts, a 0.80 WHIP in 223 innings. His WHIP was the second-lowest in the last 100 years.
• How MLB.com writers voted for the 2019 Cy Young Awards
Verlander led the Majors in batting average against (.172), which was the seventh-lowest since 1900, wins and innings pitched, while ranking second in the AL in ERA behind Cole (2.50). He reached 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career and threw his third career no-hitter on Sept. 1.
Still, it’s coming up short in the World Series that will drive Verlander this winter and into the spring. Specifically, the fire will be stoked by his loss in Game 6 with a chance to clinch a second title in three years.
“Those things motivate you,” he said. “I never try to second-guess myself and I just use it as motivation and a tool to get better, and that’s the way I look at it. I’m not going to be overly critical of a couple of pitches. I feel like I could have done some things differently. I’m going to look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow and get better from here and hopefully have another shot.”
Cole overcame a slow start to blossom into an unstoppable force, going 20-5 with 326 strikeouts and a 0.89 WHIP in 212 1/3 innings pitched, making the AL Cy Young Award race a fascinating one by late summer after it looked like Verlander was going to run away.
After starting the year by going 4-5 with a 4.11 ERA in his first 11 starts, Cole went on one of the most dominating stretches in recent memory. He went 16-0 with a 1.78 ERA in his final 22 starts. The Astros won each of the final 13 games Cole started in the regular season, but the voters decided Verlander’s body of work was more impressive.
• Every AL Cy Young Award winner
“I have never seen a run like that,” Verlander said. “Pretty incredible to be a part of it and witness it. Really, we just kind of pushed one another. It wasn’t ever competitive in the sense that it got overly competitive. We always kind of competed against one another, but in a friendly way.
“One of the great things about the way we pushed each other is the conversations we would have after, about what we saw and felt and adjustments we could make one way or another. Just always really trying to help each other but push each other at the same time.”
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.