Top 10 Most Dominant Pitching Seasons
Justin Verlander is unquestionably having one of the best pitching seasons in recent memory. The Detroit Tigers ace just won his 24th game of the season - the first in the majors since Randy Johnson in 2002. With his league-leading 2.29 ERA, 244 strikeouts and 244 innings pitched, Verlander is a lock to win the AL Cy Young and has inspired much talk about whether he deserves the MVP as well.
Behind Verlander's pitching, the Tigers have clinched the AL Central title and will return to the postseason for the first time since 2006, when Verlander did his part as a rookie. But just how valuable is Verlander to the Tigers? Is there a way to fairly measure his contributions to the team this season?
One of the most in-vogue - if controversial - new baseball statistic is Win Above Replacement (WAR). The statistic seeks to quantify a player's value to his team by calculating how many more wins a player would generate for his team as opposed to an average Triple-A, or "replacement level," player at the same position.
Based on WAR, as provided by the website Baseball-Reference.com, we find Verlander is indeed having one of the finest seasons for a starting pitcher in half a century. His 8.5 WAR is the second highest in a decade, behind only Zack Greinke's 9.0 for the Royals in 2009. But a few other pitchers have had better seasons, as measured by WAR, since the mound was lowered and division play began in 1969. These are the Top 10 Most Dominant Seasons by a Starting Pitcher (in the Division Era):