By Father Gabe Costa
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Mr. Eric Reder is taking a course on sabermetrics this semester and is our guest blogger this week. As you can see, he writes about one of today’s premier hurlers.

As Justin Verlander’s contract neared its end with the Detroit Tigers, free agency was on everyone’s mind for the Tigers’ ace pitcher.  Although he said recently that it wouldn’t be discussed until after this season, tension loomed among Detroit fans as Verlander’s fate with the club hung in the balance.  The truth is, however, that the Tigers could not afford to let Verlander go.

And here’s why.

Since arriving to the club in 2005, the Tigers have appeared in three American League Championship Series and two World Series.  The team has had a winning percentage over .500 in every season but one since 2005.  Before that year, the last time the Tigers went over .500 was in 1993.  Some may contend that these accomplishments are due to the acquisition of Jim Leyland as manager. However, the Tigers’ pitcher has no doubt contributed to their success.

With the exception of his first season with the team in 2005, in which he only played in two games, Verlander has achieved a higher winning percentage than the team’s winning percentage in six out of seven seasons.  Most notably, he attained a .716 winning percentage during his last four seasons.  Additionally, the average ERA for the American League from 2006-2012 was 4.31.  Verlander’s average ERA during that time period was almost a full run lower at 3.43.  Incredibly, his last two seasons were characterized by a 2.40 ERA and a 2.64 ERA, compared to the American League’s 4.08 ERA for both seasons.  Verlander is clearly one of a kind.  The Tigers would not be the same team without their star pitcher.

So what does all of this mean?  It means that every team would have liked to include this skilled hurler as part of its staff.  If Verlander entered free agency after his contract ended, every club would have wanted a shot at signing him.  The Tigers most likely would not have been able to compete with other clubs as Verlander moved on to the open market.  Therefore, working out a contract extension with their star pitcher was critical.  Recently, there had been talks about him being the first $200 million pitcher in baseball.  The $200 million mark was not broken in this extension; however, the $180 extension makes him the highest-paid pitcher of all time.

Overall, the Tigers should be very satisfied with hanging onto Verlander for at least another five years.  Although the price tag was high, he is a vital contributor to the team’s success.  In addition, the uncertainty of his future does not weigh on the club’s mind this season, whereas it would have had the Tigers not worked out a deal with him.

As for me and the rest of the Detroit fans, we now have reason to celebrate: Verlander’s back for years to come, and the Tigers appear to be gearing up for another spectacular season

And, most importantly, the 2013 season is under way!

Was it smart for the Tigers to give Verlander a $180 million contract extension? Will the decision pay off or come back to bite them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…