Verlander is the fourth in franchise history to take home the award

​Justin Verlander wins the 2019 AL Cy Young Award

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After a close race with teammate Gerrit Cole, the MLB announced on Wednesday that the winner of the 2019 American League Cy Young Award is Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros. He beat out the two other finalists, Gerrit Cole, who placed second, and Charlie Morton, who finished third. Verlander received 17 first-place votes to Gerrit Cole's 13.

Getting better with age

Verlander had one of the best seasons of his storied career in 2019, posting new bests in strikeouts (300) and WHIP (0.803) en route to a 21-6 record over 34 starts and 223 innings pitched, the most of anyone in the majors. Of qualified starters in the AL, Verlander's 2.58 ERA was second, eight points behind Gerrit Cole, who finished with a 2.50 and fourth-best in the entire league.

He had two complete games over the course of 2019, the first coming on August 21st against his former team, the Detroit Tigers. He would lose that game, allowing two earned runs in a 2-1 loss. Two starts later, Verlander had arguably his signature moment of the year, posting his other complete game, his third career no-hitter in Toronto against the Blue Jays on September 1st in a 2-0 victory.

A year of milestones

Not only was 2019 a successful year in itself for Verlander, but it also boosted his numbers as he continues to climb up the leaderboard of the game's best hurlers, ever. Now at 225 wins, Verlander sits alone at 70th on the all-time list, which will make him the highest active player on the list with CC Sabathia's retirement (Sabathia sits at 251, tied for 47th). In terms of career WAR (Wins Above Replacement), he now sits at 71.4, the highest active player, and ranked number 30 all-time.

Also, Verlander reached strikeout number 3,000 of his career this year, finishing the regular season with 3,006. That moved him to number 18 on the list as he advanced several spots by way of his 300 on the season. Most notably, he passed Cy Young himself, who moves down to number 22 with 2,803 with Verlander passing him and taking over as the top active player on the list with Sabathia's retirement. Sabathia sits 16th with 3,093; a number Verlander will in all likelihood pass next year as he marches up the list.

This is Verlander's second Cy Young, with the first coming in his 2011 MVP season with the Tigers. He's finished second three times, most recently in 2018 behind Blake Snell. He becomes just the fourth player in franchise history to take home the honor, joining Mike Scott in 1986, Roger Clemens in 2004, and Dallas Keuchel in 2015.

With two years left under contract, the Astros will have the benefit of watching the future Hall of Famer continue to accrue awards and accolades and rise up all-time leaderboards. While it didn't happen in 2019, they will also hope to have him be the ace of a World Series-winning rotation again as they did in 2017.

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This time next week Jim Crane will have hired or be closing in on hiring the Astros' new manager. Who is it going to be? Considering Crane himself doesn't know yet, how the heck should I know? The candidate pool is deep in quality, four former big league skippers (none of whom have won a World Series) and at least three others who have never managed in Major League Baseball.

Dusty Baker. 70 years old. Over 22 seasons he steered four different franchises to the postseason. Tremendous people skills. I always felt his teams took on his upbeat but intense personality. Not a tactical wizard and a questionable resume re: handling of several pitchers. That's not a dealbreaker If Brent Strom is still the pitching coach.

Buck Showalter. Organized and prepared as all get out. Taken three different teams to the playoffs. More coincidence than anything else, the Yankees and Diamondbacks won the World Series...the season immediately after they fired Showalter.

John Gibbons. Low key personality. Two American League Championship Series trips with the Blue Jays.

Jeff Banister. LaMarque high school grad, played at UH. Back-to-Back AL West titles with the Rangers before their roster fell apart and the Astros took over the division. Also a lifetime big league batting average of 1.000. One at bat, he singled.

Any of those four would be a highly credible hire.

Those seeking experience by getting experience: Raul Ibanez, Will Venable, and Eduardo Perez. Where the Astros are, I would lean away from them. Incumbent bench coach Joe Espada is a more credentialed candidate than those three, but Espada was on A.J. Hinch's staff when the Astros are confirmed as cheaters, so can't see Crane going with him.

The experienced big league managers would command more money. That should play zero role in the choice, even though if the Astros stay largely healthy and avoid precipitous performance declines, you or I could manage their roster to 90 wins. Who is best equipped to navigate the S.S. Astros through some stormy seas bound to hit? Because, A. that's baseball, and B. they'll face some unusual stuff in their role as the lying, cheating villains of MLB. Can't know the answer to that.

Rockets fading from the spotlight

The Texans disintegrated on the field in Kansas City, the Astros' integrity turns out to have in part either disintegrated or been non-existent, leaving the Rockets among the big three to uplift the city's sports spirits over the next couple of months. Problem, relatively few seem to care. Glaring numbers of empty seats (even though sold) at Toyota Center, lower TV ratings, and a palpable lack of buzz to them. No shame in a 27-16 record, but that's not close to special and things just seem a bit stale. Dog days of midseason or larger problems?

The Rockets enter the weekend closer to the Draft Lottery than to the Western Conference leading Lakers. The Rockets are at best b-list contenders, waaaay more likely to get bounced from the playoffs in the first round than to win the West. They may be in serious trouble relative to this season's aspirations, and going forward.

Recent deep shooting slump aside, James Harden is a phenomenal offensive force, and Russell Westbrook is a force of nature. But a Harden/Westbrook backcourt headlines a non-championship caliber defense. And there just aren't good enough players around them. Harden is 30 years old, Westbrook is 31. Eric Gordon and his balky knee and erratic jumper, also 31. Over the next three seasons the Rockets are on the hook for those three guys at an average of about 106 million dollars per season.

For two straight off-seasons, the Rockets have been cheap with construction of the bench. Whatever the extent he's been following owner Tilman Fertitta's marching orders, among teams that fancy themselves contenders General Manager Daryl Morey has produced the worst bench in the NBA.

There are a bunch of teams with better overall talent, there are lottery teams with better young talent. It all adds up to the best guess being Head Coach Mike D'Antoni parts ways with the Rockets after the season. How good a job will the Rockets job be for the next coach? The answer might be, not very, in terms of pursuing an NBA championship.

While not being a big deal, it won't look good on the Rockets side if/when Chris Paul makes the All Star Game and Russell Westbrook doesn't.

Buzzer Beaters

1. If you were Kelvin Sampson would you leave UH for the Rockets? 2. The Pro Bowl is Sunday! 3. Things on TV I'd watch before the Pro Bowl: Bronze-Real Housewives of Anywhere Silver-A full XFL game Gold-Three hours of test pattern

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