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.