The Tigers right-hander should have erased any doubt you may have had about that statement by nearly tossing his third career no-hitter on Friday night. Failing to recognize Verlander as such would be inaccurate, cruel and just plain dumb.
A season after winning 24 games and becoming the first pitcher to win an MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992, Verlander is continuing his dominance. He holds a record of 5-1 through his first nine starts, highlighted by Friday's near no-no.
Verlander no-hit the Pirates for 8 1/3 innings before Josh Harrison — ironically serving as Pittsburgh's DH during the interleague showdown — broke up the right-hander's bid for a third career no-no. Let that sink in. A third career no-hitter.
Verlander is like Nolan Ryan, only with better command. Mentioning current players in the same sentence as Hall of Famers is usually risky business, but there's little doubt that Cooperstown will come calling when Verlander eventually hangs up the cleats. Hopefully, that won't be for a long time, though, because we truly need to appreciate the clinic that the 29-year-old puts on each start.
Verlander is tops in the majors in strikeouts, boasts a miniscule ERA and WHIP, and means more to his team than any other pitcher today. Again, these are facts we shouldn't be shocked by, but they're also facts that show how truly nasty the right-hander is.
Verlander is not only baseball's best pitcher, which is verified time and time again by the stat sheet and simply by performing the eye test, but he's one of the game's best players. He's also the most intimidating.
Few pitchers reach triple digits on the radar gun, and even fewer can sustain that velocity into the ninth inning. Yet, there's Verlander topping the 100-mph mark and seemingly getting stronger as the game goes on.
It's that ability to become stronger and to stare down hitters with the same first-inning ferociousness that separates Verlander from the pack and puts him head and shoulders above the rest of baseball's hurlers. Not to take anything away from the likes of Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and the bevy of other talented pitchers across baseball, but Verlander is the man, plain and simple.
It's a shame that Verlander wasn't able to finish off the no-hitter on Friday night, but we shouldn't have to wait long before he makes another bid at one. Five days, in fact. Some no-hit bids — like Friday's — last longer than others, but when Verlander's on the mound, there's always the potential to witness something special.
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