- ESPN baseball reporter. Covered the L.A. Rams for ESPN from 2016 to 2018 and the L.A. Angels for MLB.com from 2012 to 2016.
Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander was unanimously voted the American League Cy Young Award winner on Wednesday, capping a brilliant bounce-back season that saw him reach unprecedented heights.
Verlander beat out Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox and Alek Manoah of the Toronto Blue Jays.
With Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara also winning the NL Cy Young by unanimous vote, this marks just the second time that both Cy Young winners were unanimous. Bob Gibson and Denny McLain also won unanimously in 1968, one year after the award started to be given out to both leagues.
Verlander’s Cy Young, the third of his career, came after spending most of the past two years recovering from Tommy John surgery. At 39 years and 227 days old on the last day of the regular season, Verlander becomes the the fourth-oldest winner of the Cy Young.
Verlander led the AL in wins (18) and led the majors in both ERA (1.75) and WHIP (0.83), fronting a deep Astros pitching staff that helped secure a championship.
His ERA was the best by a pitcher who made a minimum of 25 starts in his age-39-or-older season since earned runs became official in both leagues in 1913. Verlander became the second-oldest pitcher to lead the majors in ERA, topped only by a 43-year-old Roger Clemens in 2005. His 1.75 ERA was the lowest by an AL pitcher in a full season since Pedro Martinez had a 1.74 ERA in 2000.
Verlander, now a free agent, completed at least six innings in 22 of his 28 starts and accumulated 175 innings during the regular season, striking out 185 batters and walking only 29. He followed with an up-and-down performance in the ensuing postseason but overcame shaky command to contribute five innings of one-run ball against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 of the World Series, a major step in ultimately attaining his second title.
Verlander, who previously won the Cy Young Award in 2011 and 2019, is the 11th player to win it three or more times. The only one among them who is not in the Hall of Fame despite being eligible is Clemens, notoriously tied to performance-enhancing drugs.
Verlander’s third came in the most unlikely of ways — near the end of his career, on the heels of major elbow surgery. He became the second non-rookie ever to make a minimum of 15 starts and post a sub-2.00 ERA despite not pitching in the majors the previous season, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. The other was Fred Toney, who had a 1.58 ERA for the 1915 Cincinnati Reds after pitching in the minor leagues the previous year.
Cease went 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts. Manoah went 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA, the second-lowest mark in Blue Jays history.
But Verlander was at the top of his class once again.
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