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It's the question everyone really wants to know: will Justin Verlander enter the Hall of Fame as a Detroit Tiger or something else? Currently, the only other team that would have a shot to don his cap in Cooperstown is the Houston Astros, though depending on how long he continues to play, others could be in the mix. Every time Verlander returns to Detroit he's asked about it, unfairly. He doesn't have the choice, the Hall of Fame does. So we should try to answer that question for ourselves.
Why it matters
The Detroit Tigers have not had a Hall of Famer inducted since Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were inducted by the Veteran's Committee. And, not to mention, one egregious omission in Lou Whittaker. The Tigers will have a sure-fire Hall of Famer once Miguel Cabrera's career comes to a close this season, but for someone who was the face of the franchise for 13 seasons, is it possible Verlander goes into the Hall as something other than a Tiger?
Case-by-case arguments for the Tigers and Astros
Verlander spent the first 13 years of his career as a Tiger, then the next five were spent in Houston after a trade that sent him to the American League powerhouse in 2017. It's the trade that signaled for Tigers fans that our run of dominance was over – though it was over long before that. The seemingly never-ending rebuild was started and now six years later, we're really no better off. Here are the stats for Verlander as a Tiger and an Astro, as we try to determine whose cap he'll wear in the Hall of Fame.
The case for the Detroit Tigers
Drafted #2 overall by the Tigers in 2004 out of Old Dominion, Verlander made his MLB debut one year later on July 4, 2005 against Cleveland. He went 5.1 innings, gave up seven hits, four runs, struck out four, and walked three. JV amassed an impressive resume while in Detroit, and one that was Hall-worthy, even if it did lack a World Series title. Here's his resume as a Tiger*:
- Won Rookie of the Year in 2006.
- Won the CY Young, Triple Crown, and MVP in 2011.
- CY runner-up in 2012.
- CY runner-up in 2016.
- ERA title in 2011.
- 6x All-Star.
- Total record: 183-114 (.616 win%).
- 3.49 career ERA in Detroit; 123 ERA+ (league average is 100).
- 3.48 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, and 8.5 K/9.
The case for the Houston Astros
Late into the night of August 31, 2017, the Detroit Tigers signaled it was time for a rebuild and shipped Verlander to the Astros, breaking the hearts of every fan that ever supported the Ole English D. All Verlander did while donning the Astros uniform was just continue to dominate and lead the Astros to their first World Series Victory in franchise history. Here's JV's resume as an Astro:
- 2 Cy Young Awards (2019, 2022).
- Cy Runner up in 2018.
- 3X All-Star.
- 2x World Series Champ (2017, 2022).
- ERA title in 2022 (1.75).
- ALCS MVP (2017).
- Total Record: 61-19 (.763 win%)
- 2.26 career ERA in HOU; 188 ERA+ (league average is 100)
- 2.89 FIP; 0.83 WHIP; 1.6 BB/9; 11.4 K/9
*All Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference
While we hometown folks will think it's a lock for JV to wear our beloved cap in the Hall of Fame, I would caution you that it isn't so evident. He was arguably a better pitcher in Houston than he was in Detroit. And sure, we can say, that longevity needs to factor into the decision. However, JV has aged like fine wine and will not be stopping anytime soon. Given the two Cy Young Awards and twice World Series Champion, there's plenty of reason to believe that JV will don the Houston cap in the Hall of Fame.
There is one caveat though: if JV signs a one-year deal to return to the Tigers and finish his career, it's a lock he goes in with a Tigers cap. I wouldn't hold my breath though.