Jim Leyland: Verlander And Scherzer Are Proving My Point

"They’re still the best pitchers in baseball."

Will Burchfield
July 24, 2020 - 12:36 pm

Jim Leyland looks back fondly on his time as Tigers manager. You probably do, too. The team won three division championships and two AL pennants. 

"We just didn’t that final straw, which will hurt forever," Leyland told the Jamie and Stoney Show. "But it was a great time in Detroit during those days. Not because I was there, but it was just a great run for Tigers baseball and nobody loves that more than I did." 

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In one regard, Leyland also feels some vindication. 

"I will say this, one thing I’m proud of, and I get a kick out of it. When I was there people said, ‘Ahh, you’re throwing Scherzer and Verlander too many pitches. You’re throwing them too much, you’re pitching them too much.’ They’re still pitching, and they’re still the best pitchers in baseball. It goes back to what I said: pitchers are supposed to pitch," Leyland said.

He's right. Since 2016, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are the only pitchers in the Majors who've thrown at least 800 innings. Scherzer won the Cy Young in 2016 and 2017, Verlander won it in 2019. Verlander, in particular, has quieted the critics who not long ago said he was finished. 

"So I think my point finally got across: pitchers need to pitch," said Leyland. "Those guys are still going strong and they certainly weren’t 'pitched out' like a lot of people accused us of. I think it just goes to show you that if pitchers are going to get hurt, they’re going to get hurt. In these guys’ cases, they both got strong legs, they both got rubber arms." 

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The Tigers hope they're grooming their next Cy Young winner in Casey Mize. The No. 1 overall pick in 2018 has impressed everyone in the organization, Leyland included. 

"I think he’s the most advanced pitcher of the young group that we have," said Leyland, who serves as a special assistant in Detroit's front office. "I’m not saying he’s going to be the best in the long run – I don’t know the answer to that – but he is really good. He really has ‘pitchability’ to go along with the outstanding stuff. He’s the real deal. I don’t think it’s going to be too long before you see him." 

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Leyland plans to spend some time this season in Toledo, observing the Tigers' taxi squad at Al Avila's behest. At the big-league level, he'll have his eye on two players in what he thinks is an underrated outfield for Detroit: Christin Stewart and JaCoby Jones. 

"I’ve been a big fan of Stewart," Leyland said. "I understand some defensive shortcomings, but I think given the opportunity, this guy’s going to hit and he’s going to hit with a lot of power. JaCoby Jones is kind of a mystery man because he has so much talent and he shows signs, but he’s been hurt quite a bit. I don’t really know how that’s going to work out. (Victor) Reyes hit .300 last year and they got (Cameron) Maybin in there to solidify things.

"It’s not your big-name outfielders with a lot of thump right now, but opportunity is a wonderful thing for these guys. And I’ve been a fan of Christin Stewart and JaCoby Jones. We just gotta keep JaCoby on the field. He’s an excellent defensive outfielder, he’s the best runner on the team and he’s certainly showed signs. We just have to get more consistency."