By:  Holly Horning

We’ve read a lot about how Justin Verlander must recover some form of his old self this year if the Tigers are to see October baseball. Discussions have centered around his surgery, age, declining velocity and even the impact of his personal life.

Those familiar with JV point to his bulldog mentality as being a key factor in his return to some semblance of his old self. But there is another catalyst not yet mentioned that will serve as motivation for JV. The Hall of Fame.

Believe it or not, as his stats currently stand, JV is not yet Hall of Fame worthy. But he won a Cy Young and MVP, you say. He threw two no-hitters! He was Rookie of the Year and won pitching’s Triple Crown! Six All-Star Games!

All great and good but in the mind of those who vote, these awards are considered opinion and take a back seat to stats. Same with win/loss totals which are considered a by-product of a team’s run production.

Those who may be voting for him in the future will look at his major stats (innings, ERA, strikeouts, walks, hits allowed, etc.) and compare them to the league norm in each season.

In reviewing the 77 pitchers who are already in the Hall of Fame, I looked at the averages for all the major categories. The first thing that stands out is that JV needs to pitch at least another five years.

The average for the Hall of Fame is 18 years and 253 wins with JV having played for just over 9 years with 152 wins. His stats for games played/started, innings pitched, hits allowed, runs, and earned runs are approximately half of what the inductees have. While he’s behind in BBs, he’s ahead in SOs and W/L%. But a telling factor is his ERA which is 3.53 while the HofF pitchers hold an average of 2.98.

While we look at the 6 dominant years JV has performed, one-third of his playing time has been on the weaker side. When compared to his competition each year, the couple of years of dominance have been overshadowed by years in which his standings fell.

And then there’s the post-season. While he excelled in division playoffs, his World Series record is 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA. And voters give significant weight to post-season success.

JV’s goals need to include lowering his ERA and picking up as close to 100 more wins as possible. That means he needs to pitch an absolute minimum of another 5 years. And those years need to be good ones, too. And he also needs to show that he is capable of pitching the biggest games in October.

Justin has a reputation for being a beast on the mound. Let’s hope that previous years of success and recognition haven’t dulled his competitive spirit and that he is able to evolve from being a thrower into a pitcher.

Otherwise, we’ll be having another discussion in future years, much like the debate surrounding why Jack Morris isn’t in the Hall of Fame.