In a full disclosure statement from this blog – the idea for this post came from elsewhere.
Throughout the off-season, mlb.com likes to throw out these blurbs. Most indispensable player on every team, most critical spring training position battle on every team, top prospect for every team, best off-season pickup for every team, etc, ad nauseam. But hey, it is tough to fill the vacuum of waiting for the season to begin.
In this case, we would like to examine a little more closely the statement in this article that the most indispensable player in 2019 for the Astros is Justin Verlander.
The argument for JV
Since the trade from the Tigers at the waiver deadline in 2017, Verlander has been the Astros best starting pitcher. In the regular season, he has been 21-9 with a pristine 2.32 ERA / 0.867 WHIP / 12.1 K per 9 IP / 1.5 Walks per 9 IP. He has been 6-2 in the postseason and of course, helped lead the Astros to their first World Championship. He has been an extremely talented bulldog throughout and no one will forget him climbing out of the clubhouse in the classic Game 2 win in the WS and extolling his teammates to not give up even though they had just given up the lead in that crazy see-saw game.
In 2019 he would seem to be a critical cog as the Astros will be headed to war after losing starter Lance McCullers to injury, starter Charlie Morton to a team near his family and likely losing starter Dallas Keuchel, if anyone meets his price and years. As the Astros try to head back to the WS with different parts in the rotation and with youngsters as the first line of defense in case of injury, having the senior leader at the front of the starting five would seem extremely critical.
The argument against JV
This is a tough thing to argue, like trying to win an arbitration case against Gerrit Cole. Justin is a terrific talent, who looks like he is ready to emulate his idol Nolan Ryan and pitch past 40 years old without blinking. But the base question is this. Can a guy who plays in 20% of the games (at most) be the most indispensable player on the team? Won-loss is not the best measure of a pitcher, but just for comparison, Verlander was 16-9 (64% win percentage) and the team was 21-13 (61.8%) in his starts. That is compared to the team being 82-46 (64%) in games started by other pitchers. No doubt if they had to replace him for those 34 games, they would have had to either used a younger, inexperienced pitcher or pulled Collin McHugh or Brad Peacock out of the bullpen. They probably would have won fewer games, but would it have undone the whole season? Well, it might have dropped them behind the A’s, but it also might not have.
And of course the other side of this argument ties to the other candidates for the most indispensable player. Jose Altuve was the MVP of the AL in 2017 and his fall-off with injury helped hamstring the team in 2018. This was even truer relative to Carlos Correa and his bad back in 2018. Alex Bregman absolutely carried the team on his back in 2018 and George Springer has long been the straw that stirred the offensive drink of this team.
And these four players can affect up to 162 games in a season.
So, the questions for you…..
- With the pitching rotation going through a big transition and with not as much major league experienced depth, is Justin Verlander the most indispensable player on the team?
- Is one of the everyday players, Altuve, Correa, Bregman or Springer the most indispensable player? If so who?
- What about Gerrit Cole, who might pass JV as the ace this season?
- If the Astros re-sign Dallas Keuchel does that make JV less indispensable?