I have maintained since 2009, when Justin Verlander had a comeback season from a disastrous 2008, he is the best starting pitcher in baseball.
My reasoning hasn't necessarily been based on sheer numbers. He wasn't the best pitcher in baseball statistically in 2009 and 2010. Particularly his ERA, but also his WHIP, were higher than many other starters, but I felt those numbers were skewed by slow starts in the month of April.
Also, I look at traditional scouting aspects as much numbers. How hard does a pitcher throw? What kind of off-speed pitches does he have? What is his size - taller pitchers throw on more of a downward plane, and that tilt makes their pitches even more difficult for hitters to center the baseball. What kind of overall athlete are they? The best pitchers tend to be very good overall athletes, which is a factor in their ability to repeat their delivery and maintain their arm slot.
Verlander throws consistently harder than any other starter and has an excellent breaking ball and change up. He is the perfect height for a pitcher and is very athletic overall - tall at 6-5, but not too tall, which makes it difficult to maintain his pitching mechanics. He also has a good feel for pitching and strong competitive character, which seemed to be built through the disappointment of '08.
Last season, Verlander answered all questions. His numbers this season are nearly the same quality, although he hasn't been able to garner as many wins because of factors that have sometimes (not always) been out of his control.
His durability is outstanding. It wouldn't surprise me if he throws another no hitter before the season ends, and it could even come Thursday against a depleted and laboring Toronto Blue Jays lineup at Comerica Park.
But his status as the best pitcher in the game is being challenged by Felix Hernandez, who I had thought was fading a bit after such a dominating start to his career.
Hernandez is a couple years younger than Verlander. He doesn't throw as consistently hard and isn't the same athlete overall, but he has definitely has a special pitcher's touch.
David Price is having a phenomenal season. He is left-handed and has an incredible arm. Jered Weaver is really good. I don't mean to dismiss him. But the Angels have never pushed him deep into games like the Tigers have with Verlander. There just isn't the same physical presence there - despite glowing numbers.
The best pitchers in the National League, in my opinion, are Clayton Kershaw, Steven Strasburg and Johnny Cueto. All are young, have great arm strength and should be able to perform well deep into the future.
They are all potential Justin Verlanders.