- Molly Knight
A version of this story appears in the August 8 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
TO GET A SENSE of just how dominant Justin Verlander has been this season, the first thing you should know is this: On July 3, the Tigers had a giveaway in which all fans ages 14 and under received superhero capes emblazoned with "Verlander." Ever since, teammate Miguel Cabrera has taken to referring to Verlander as Superman, and it's not hard to see why. Through July 20, the 6'5", 225-pound righthander led the American League in innings pitched (173), strikeouts (169) and, probably, compliments from the teammates who love him and begrudging respect from opponents who can't stand him. "Hitters hate him," says teammate Brandon Inge. "They want to face him and kill him. But that's what happens when you're better than everyone else, plain and simple." White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen compares Verlander to Roger Clemens: "It's his presence on the mound. He'll throw any pitch at any time. You just have to set the lineup that day and wish for good luck."
If it were up to Verlander's teammates and at least one division foe who's faced him almost as often as anyone, the 28-year-old with a 2.34 ERA would be handed the Cy Young right now. We'll let them explain.
Justin Verlander is this year's must-see pitcher and the early favorite for the American League Cy Young. Disagree? Just listen to his Tiger teammates.