Detroit Tigers: Why Justin Verlander Can Be Even Better in 2012

Sean RinehartContributor IIIFebruary 22, 2012

Detroit Tigers: Why Justin Verlander Can Be Even Better in 2012

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    As the reigning Cy Young award winner and AL Most Valuable Player, Justin Verlander is going to have a difficult time improving on his season from a year ago.

    However, if there is any player in the major league that could do just that, it is Verlander.  With an unparalleled work ethic and drive, Verlander is on a mission for one thing: a World Series championship.  If along the way he is able to improve upon his 2011 as he accomplishes that mission, Verlander and the Tigers, as well as every Tigers fan across the nation, will be ecstatic.

    Verlander is not your everyday baseball player.  He has freakish athletic ability and drive, which are two important characteristics that are necessary to improve upon such a stellar and impressive 2011 campaign.

    Here are five reasons why Verlander will be even better during the 2012 season.

5. Attitude

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    While many players have a winning attitude, it is hard to find players who match the same attitude as Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. 

    His statistics and personal achievements mean less to him than his team's success, and that is why he is the perfect teammate.  His winning attitude and mentality is contagious, and it is the reason why Verlander has a chance to go above and beyond in 2012.

    Many would be worried about Verlander and his ability to take his new-found success in stride, all while keeping a level head.  However, there was never any doubt to Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

    Jim Leyland was recently quoted in a Detroit News article as saying, "There's a knack to handling success as there is a knack to handling failure. Some people don't handle failure very well, and some people don't handle success very well.  But, as I said, I was very impressed."

    Tigers fans should rest easy knowing that Verlander can not only handle the pressure of success, but he can also handle the constant attention and scrutiny.  His winning attitude and mentality will see him through.

4. Consistency

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    With the exception of the 2008 season, Justin Verlander has shown improvement in at least one category or more in every season he has spent in the majors.

    With that being said, we know one thing about Verlander: He is consistently good.

    Last year's stats speak for themselves: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 Ks, and a .192 average against. 

    Maybe it's too much for fans of Detroit to assume Verlander is going to continue with his consistent track record and improve upon a ridiculous;y good 2011 season, but it is not  too much for Verlander himself.

    A couple weeks after the Tigers' season ended in disappointing fashion to the Rangers, Verlander was asked by MLB.com if it was possible for him have an even better showing in 2012. He said,  "I think I'm still scratching the surface here. The things I did, the work I put in in Spring Training, it changed things, and it changed me."

    There is little doubt that Verlander is back to work as we speak in preparation for another incredible run in 2012 that will hopefully catapult this team to the World Series. 

3. Run Support

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    Even though the loss of Victor Martinez is a devastating blow to this Tigers team, they made up for it by signing perennial All-Star Prince Fielder to a nine-year deal.

    However, it will not be Prince Fielder alone that will be knocking in big runs in order to help support Verlander and the rest of the Tigers pitching staff throughout the season.  Big seasons are expected from Peralta, Young, Avila and Boesch. 

    In order for them to have the success they tasted last season, they will need every player to step up and execute when given the chance.  With Cabrera and Fielder at the heart of their batting order, the Tigers have a chance to score big runs in every game they play. 

    Because of this opportunity that few, if any, teams have this season, Verlander will be in great position to surpass his 2011 season and experience an even more successful 2012 campaign, which will hopefully culminate with a World Series ring. 

2. Competitive Nature

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    We all know how competitive that the newly-acquired Prince Fielder can be, but it is incredibly important to note how competitive the Tigers' ace can also be. 

    During spring training, Verlander can often be seen and heard criticizing his own pitches.  He hates to make mistakes, but he knows they are part of the process—one that has seen him become one of the most dominant pitchers in the league today. 

    Because of his competitive nature, Verlander has a chance to eclipse the numbers that he put up during last season.  When asked about preparing for the 2012 season, Verlander had this to say: "You guys know me. You know how competitive I am...Having one great year isn’t going to change anything. If anything, it makes me want to be better."

    This statement alone shows Verlander's willingness to work in order to get better.  While he may possibly be the best pitcher in baseball, he doesn't act like it.  Every day is a chance to get better and get ahead. 

1. Self-Critical

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    There may be no one in baseball more critical of himself than Justin Verlander. 

    Even on the first day of spring training, Verlander can be heard breaking down each of his pitches in the hopes that each day he is given offers a new opportunity for him to improve.  It's not an arrogance issue; he wants to be his best because he knows it is necessary for his team to reach the ultimate pinnacle of his sport.

    In order to reach the mountaintop, Verlander must be critical of himself.  Detroit Tigers' beat writer Jason Beck recently reported how Verlander was "...back to his normal, perfectionist, hyper-competitive self. He wasn't where he wanted to be with his pitches, but he was back to normal with his personality."  Upon finishing a pitching session, Verlander stated that his session was "Not as good as I would like...but not as bad either."

    Verlander's self-criticism will only make him better, and the fact that we are seeing it on the very first day of spring training means that Tiger fans may be witnesses to something special this season.