Friday, July 8, 2022

Rookie of the Year Spotlight: Justin Verlander


Some of the collections I have been working on over the years are starting to get filled out and my goals are being reached. As a result, I'm starting to slow down a little when it comes to acquiring many cards for some of my mini-collections. Now that the collection is feeling more and more complete, I wanted to start showcasing the cards I have, player by player.

One such collection is my Rookie of the Year collection. I love collecting players who have won the award as the top newcomer in each league. This wasn't born of hot rookie hype and the desire to prospect. Rather, I became fascinated thinking about the careers of guys like Eric Karros, Jerome Walton, and Tim Salmon, who experienced varying degrees of success but may not have become superstars. I thought it would be fun to have a collection that chronicles the individual career journeys of rookie stars--whether they burned bright and flamed out quickly, regressed to the mean, or wended their way to Cooperstown.
My goal has been to fill a binder page for each player who won the award in my lifetime and to fill a row for older players. I may expand that later as I expand my vintage collection. The ultimate goal of my binder is to show a card from every different uniform the player wore, from fresh-faced rookie to grizzled vet. This series is to commemorate each Rookie of the Year's career and show my collection of their cards. I have a randomized list of winners that I use to determine the order of these posts, but for the second time in a row, I'm going away from that order. Today we highlight

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander's Major League career got off to an inauspicious start in 2005. He started two games for the Tigers, pitched 11 innings, and allowed 9 earned runs. He came back to Detroit's rotation in 2006 to strike out 124 batters en route to winning 17 games and posting a 3.23 ERA (good for 7th in the AL). He ran away with the AL Rookie of the Year award, taking all but two first place votes (Minnesota's Francisco Liriano and Baltimore's Nick Markakis) and finishing 70 points ahead of second-place finisher Jonathan Papelbon, who saved 35 games for the Red Sox. Besides winning ROY, Verlander finished 7th in the AL Cy Young balloting and even garnered some MVP votes.

Since then, Verlander has put together a first-ballot Hall of Fame career as a generational starting pitcher. During his time in Detroit, he received six All-Star nominations. In 2011, he took home the AL pitching Triple Crown with a 2.40 ERA, 24 wins, and 250 strikeouts. He also led the league with a minuscule .920 WHIP across 250 innings. He won the Cy Young Award unanimously that year and became just the 10th pitcher to win the Cy Young and MVP in the same season (the first to do it since Dennis Eckersley in 1992). 

He was traded to the Houston Astros in 2017 as part of their pennant push, and saying it paid off would be an understatement. After arriving in Houston, he pitched in five regular season games, going 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 43 strikeouts. He posted an incredible 8.6 SO/W ratio for the Astros before winning ALCS MVP and helping the team win the World Series. Then he just seemed to get better, finishing second in the Cy Young voting the next season before winning his second award in 2019. Tommy John kept him out all of 2021, but he has come back strong in 2022 with a 2.03 ERA and an AL-best 10 wins as the All-Star Break approaches.

This is the first spotlight that has come up of an active player, so this career wrap-up is incomplete. Incomplete, yet impressive. As of this writing, he has led the league in ERA once, strikeouts five times, WHIP four times, innings pitched four times, and wins three times. He is the current active leader with 3,103 strikeouts and currently sits and #16 on the all-time leaderboard.

The scans above don't show all of the Justin Verlander cards in my collection, but the ones I didn't show are all part of set builds. These are the ones that are part of my Rookie of the Year collection, enough for a nice, even, double-bagged page.


  1. HEY I KNOW THAT GUY! Nice collection, Trevor. Do you have a rough guess of how many you have?

  2. Verlander has had one heck of a career and he's still dominating hitters. Glad we've had the opportunity to watch him over the years. As for his cards, I missed the boat. I should've grabbed his autograph a decade ago, but didn't. Now I'm sure it's way out of my budget.

  3. That Triple Play card sticks out like a sore thumb :)