Two of baseball's biggest stars put together tremendous bounce-back seasons in 2022.
St. Louis Cardinals great Albert Pujols and Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander were named the National League and American League Comeback Players of the Year, respectively, on Tuesday.
Pujols, 42, became the third Cardinals player to win the Comeback Player of the Year award, joining Chris Carpenter, who won it in 2009, and Lance Berkman, who won it in 2011.
The 22-year veteran returned to the Cardinals for the 2022 campaign, his final season in Major League Baseball, and managed to turn back the clock to put together one of his best performances in years.
Pujols slashed .270/.345/.550 with 24 home runs and 68 RBI in 109 games. He became the fourth player in history to hit 700 home runs, joining Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth.
Pujols' 24 home runs are the most he hit in a season since the 31 he put up as a member of the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. Furthermore, his .550 slugging percentage was the highest since he posted a .596 in 2010, and his .895 OPS was the highest since he posted an .906 OPS in 2011.
Pujols spent 11 seasons with the Cardinals to begin his career before joining the Angels in 2012. In his first stint in St. Louis, he won Rookie of the Year, three MVP awards, six Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Gloves, one batting title and two World Series titles.
Once he signed with the Angels, Pujols was still effective, but his performance wasn't nearly as good as it was during the first half of his career as his injuries piled up. The Angels traded him to the Dodgers during the 2021 campaign.
Pujols announced before the 2022 campaign that he would be retiring after the season.
As for Verlander, this award comes on the heels of his third Cy Young award and second World Series title. He is the first Astros player to ever win Comeback Player of the Year.
Verlander was limited to just six innings in 2020 and missed the entire 2021 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery. There were questions about how he would perform in 2022, but he returned and put together one of the best seasons of his career.
The 39-year-old posted a 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 185 strikeouts in 175 innings across 28 starts. His ERA was the lowest by any American League pitcher in a non-pandemic-shortened season since Pedro Martinez in 2000.
Verlander intends to return in 2023, but he is currently a free agent, and it's unclear if he'll end up back in Houston.