By James Nahikian
Every team and sport has one. Hockey had Wayne Gretzky, basketball had Michael Jordan, football had Vince Lombardi, and the Detroit Tigers have Justin Verlander. All the great teams need a star, someone who can take over a game. The Tigers have this, in Verlander. It is pretty safe to say that Justin Verlander is anything but ordinary. “The Ace” has stacked up 108 wins across his six years of Major League Baseball. Last year, he racked up 24 wins and picked up American League MVP and Cy Young honors in the process. Making him the first pitcher since 1992 (Dennis Eckersley, Oakland Athletics) to be named the league’s MVP.
How many guys can say that they throw a 90+MPH changeup? For most MLB pitchers, a 90 MPH pitch would be an incredible fastball. Not for Justin Verlander. At times, he admits that he gets too “amped up,” causing his off speed pitches to blow away most pitcher’s fastball. Besides the changeup (Which is typically thrown in the 80-84 MPH zone), Verlander hurls a fastball that has been clocked in the triple digits, a devastating curveball, and a sweeping slider that was just added last season to his already potent arsenal.
How special is Justin Verlander? Just ask Fox Sports Detroit commentator, Rod Allen. During Verlander’s historic 2011 campaign, he changed the phrase, “Must see TV,” to “Must see JV.” And I guess it worked, the righty went on to win 12 consecutive starts across a 3 month stretch late in the season. The phrase was posted on Allen’s twitter page the day of every Verlander start. In fact, it became so popular amongst Tiger fans, that you can now buy a “Must See JV” shirt or sweatshirt on midwestlint.com.
Oh, and by the way, he eats Taco Bell the night before every start. Thats right, arguably the best pitcher on the planet, eats fast food the night before he goes out and throws a no hitter. For Verlander, the meal consists of three crunchy taco supremes (no tomatos), one cheesy gordita crunch, and one mexican pizza (no tomatos). If that doesn’t surprise you, I don’t know what will.
“The Ace” started off right where he left off from last season. Throwing 8 innings and allowing just two hits in the Tigers’ 3-2 Opening Day win against the Boston Red Sox on April 5. Tigers’ fans hope that “JV” will be just as impressive this year, as he was last year. They can only hope that their ace will be the prominent figure in a 2012 World Series season. But for now, Verlander will continue to be, anything but ordinary.
WATCH: Verlander discusses his meal of Taco Bell and dugout pranks with TV host, Conan O’Brien.
James Nahikian blogs about the industry of sports. And specializes in articles about the Detroit Tigers, Major League Baseball and Bowling Green State University Athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org And follow him on twitter @KingNahikian or facebook where you can find links to his articles and updates about future posts.