The Brevity of Pitching Stardom
Justin Verlander just went on disabled list. It could be something minor -- but such things for 30-something pitchers are rarely minor.
Here, by Baseball Reference WAR, were the five best pitchers in baseball in 2011 -- we're talking just four years ago:
1. Roy Halladay 2. Cliff Lee 3. Justin Verlander 4. CC Sabathia 5. Jered Weaver
-- Halladay retired two years ago.
-- Lee is on the 60-day disabled list and his career might be over.
-- Verlander just went on the 15-day disabled list because of soreness in his right triceps; he is coming off a dreadful season where he led the American League in runs allowed.
-- Sabathia led the league in runs allowed two years ago, made just eight starts last year and has been so bad this spring (five homers in 9 2/3 innings) that he recently told a reporter that he doesn't "give a (bleep) what stock people put into it."
-- Weaver had some injury problems a couple of years ago but he did lead the American League in victories in 2014, even if most of his other numbers took dips.
Remember: These guys were the best in the game was just four years ago. It was after that season that Sabathia signed a huge extension. It was one year earlier, that Cliff Lee signed his five-year, $120 million deal. Verlander had one more fantastic season after 2011 and then signed for seven years, $180 million.
The point being: Any executive who puts any stock in pitchers staying great is just kidding him/herself. What do the Nationals expect to get out of Max Scherzer? And, even if what they expect seems utterly reasonable (two good seasons, a couple more average ones)... is it? No one knows?
Felix Hernandez is an anomaly - he has now been very good to excellent for eight straight years. Clayton Kershaw ... here's hoping he can keep this going for years to come. But the hard truth is that even the best pitchers, the seemingly invincible pitchers -- Verlander, Halladay, Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Johan Santana to name only a few recent Cy Young winners -- will not only decline quickly they can disappear in a moment.
Understanding this only makes Hall of Fame marvels like Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens and Tom Seaver and Randy Johnson even more miraculous.