Right-handed pitcher Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros and designated hitter Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals have been named the recipients of the 2022 American League and National League Comeback Player of the Year Awards, respectively, Major League Baseball announced today. The Comeback Player of the Year Awards are officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and have been presented annually since 2005 to one player in each League who has
re-emerged on the field during the season. The winners were determined following a vote by the 30 Club beat reporters from MLB.com, the official web site of Major League Baseball.
Verlander, who missed the entire 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, returned to the field pitching to an ERA of 1.75 with 185 strikeouts in 28 starts in 2022. The 39-year old led the American League in ERA (1.75), WHIP (0.83), wins (18), opponents’ batting average (.186), opponents’ OPS (.497), and hits per nine innings (5.97). His ERA was the lowest by an American League pitcher since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 ERA in 2000. After being unanimously voted as the 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner, Verlander became the 11th pitcher in Major League history to win at least three Cy Young awards, previously winning the award 2019 and 2011, when he also claimed the AL MVP Award. Additionally, Verlander became the first Major League pitcher to win a Cy Young Award after not pitching in the previous season. Verlander, the second overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, was selected to his ninth All-Star Game in July, and the Virginia native won his second World Series championship with the Houston Astros this season. His 16 career Postseason wins are the second-most in Major League history behind only Andy Pettitte (19).
Pujols returned to St. Louis, where he spent the first 11 seasons of his legendary career, and registered an impressive final season at the age of 42. Following a 2021 season in which he was released by the Los Angeles Angels in mid-May before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, the three-time National League MVP Award winner played in 109 games in 2022, hitting .270 with 24 home runs, 68 RBI, 14 doubles, a .345 on base percentage and a .550 slugging percentage. His .895 OPS was his highest in a single season since his final season in St. Louis in 2011 (.906) before joining the Los Angeles Angels, and his 24 home runs were his most since he hit 31 in 2016 with the Angels. Pujols put on a second half for the ages, highlighted by 18 home runs after the All-Star break en route to becoming the fourth player in Major League history to hit 700 career home runs. The 11-time All-Star was selected to the Midsummer Classic for the first time since 2015 as a legacy selection by Commissioner Manfred and participated in the 2022 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, advancing to the second round. Pujols finished his career fourth all-time in home runs (703), second all-time in RBI (2,218) and total bases (6,211), and ninth all-time in hits (3,384). He is one of three players in history, along with Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, to reach at least 3,000 career hits, 500 career home runs and 600 career doubles.
Other players who received votes for AL Comeback Player of the Year included three-time AL MVP Award winner Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels (.283, 40 HR, 80 RBI, 28 2B, .999 OPS), who was limited by injury to just 36 games in 2021; infielder/outfielder Matt Carpenter of the New York Yankees, who recorded 15 homers and 37 RBI in 47 games played after collecting seven homers and 45 RBI over the last two seasons combined; and third baseman Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros (.259, 23 HR, 93 RBI, 38 2B, .820 OPS), who played in just 91 games during an injury-plagued 2021 season.
Other players who received votes for NL Comeback Player of the Year included outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves (.266, 15 HR, 50 RBI, 24 2B, 29 SB, .764 OPS), who suffered a torn ACL in his knee in July 2021; pitcher Mark Appel of the Philadelphia Phillies, who was the number one overall pick in the 2013 Draft and made his Major League debut and pitched in six games for the Phillies in 2022 after stepping away from the game from 2018-2020; reliever David Robertson of the Phillies
(4-3, 2.40 ERA, 63.2 IP, 81 SO), who did not play in 2020 and combined for just 19 appearances across the 2019 and 2021 seasons; infielder Brandon Drury of the San Diego Padres (.263, 28 HR, 87 RBI, 31 2B, .813 OPS), who registered career-highs in home runs, RBI, hits, runs scored and slugging; pitcher Nick Martinez of the Padres (4-4, 3.47 ERA, 106.1 IP, 95 SO), who pitched in the Majors for the first time since 2017 following four seasons playing in Japan; and reliever Ryan Helsley of the Cardinals
(9-1, 1.25 ERA, 19 SV, 64.2 IP, 94 SO), who posted career-bests in several categories, including wins, ERA, games pitched, saves, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP.