Justin Verlander's Underrated ... But Not By Hitters

Thursday, I selected Justin Verlander as the starting pitcher on my All-Underrated Team.

Saturday, Justin Verlander threw his second no-hitter.

Sometimes, you're drinking a delightful bottle of Orangina and life hands you juicy naval oranges.

If you asked a fairly knowledgeable baseball fan, just yesterday, to make a list of the 10 best starting pitchers in the major leagues, I suspect you'd have received a list including some combination of these names: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Zack Greinke, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, Josh Johnson, Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, Chris Carpenter, David Price ... Okay, so maybe Justin Verlander would have made the list, but I suspect that he wouldn't have.

For whatever reasons, Verlander just doesn't wind up in that conversation as often as he might.

Maybe it's because he's never won 20 games.

Maybe it's because he's never won a Cy Young Award (or come particularly close).

Maybe it's because he hasn't pitched in the postseason since 2006, and pitched poorly then.

Maybe it's because his career ERA isn't real impressive, and because he's never posted a sub-3.00 ERA in one season.

Make no mistake, though ... Justin Verlander has been really really really good for a while now. Since his rookie season (2006), Verlander ranks sixth in the majors in innings pitched, fourth in strikeouts, and fifth in Wins Above Replacement.

And while it's not exactly true that Verlander's pitched significantly better than his 3.80 career ERA, it's utterly true that only some measure of bad luck has kept Verlander from having one of those seasons -- say, 20-7 with a 2.73 ERA -- that would have made just about everyone perk up and say, "Wow, this guy can really pitch."

Maybe this second no-hitter will do what the first one didn't. Or maybe this will simply be the season in which Verlander pitches like one of the game's best and he catches a few breaks, and looks (superficially) like not just one of the best, but the best pitcher in the American League.

Then again, think how many great pitchers -- not to mention how many New York Mets -- have never thrown one no-hitter, let alone two. Think about it like that, and perhaps Justin Verlander's already caught more breaks than any one man -- no matter how talented -- might reasonably expect.

Verlander probably doesn't mind being underrated. So long as the hitters know, only too well, how good he is.

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