Pujols, Verlander honored as MLB's Comeback Players of the Year
A pair of future Hall of Famers were honored Tuesday for their remarkable turnaround seasons in 2022.
St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols added one more trophy on his way to retirement after being named National League Comeback Player of the Year, while Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander - this year's unanimous AL Cy Young winner - took home the American League honor, the league announced.
Pujols' career looked finished following a fairly pedestrian 2021 campaign split between the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers. But after returning to the Cardinals in the spring for one last season before retirement, he experienced a rebirth for the ages. The 42-year-old hit .270/.345/.550 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs over 109 games, primarily as a lefty-mashing DH. His 154 OPS+ was his best since 2011 - the final year of his first stint in St. Louis.
The surprising surge also allowed Pujols to become just the fourth player in baseball history with 700 career home runs, a milestone he reached late in the season.
Despite his performance, Pujols remained true to his word at the beginning of the year and retired after St. Louis was eliminated from the playoffs. He ended his career with a lifetime .918 OPS, 3,384 hits, 686 doubles, 703 home runs, and 2,218 RBIs over 22 seasons in the majors.
Pujols is the third Cardinals player to win this award since it was established in 2005, joining former teammates Chris Carpenter in 2009 and Lance Berkman in 2011.
Verlander, meanwhile, was the easy choice in the Junior Circuit following his unprecedented return from Tommy John surgery. After missing all of 2021 while rehabbing his elbow, the 39-year-old returned to the mound looking like his old dominant self. He posted a major league-leading 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP with 185 strikeouts and an AL-best 18 wins over 28 starts for the world-champion Astros.
Verlander, the first Astros player to claim this award, joined an exclusive list last week by winning his third career AL Cy Young Award. He became the first pitcher to win the Cy Young after not playing the previous season.
Pujols beat out several other contenders to win NL Comeback Player of the Year, including Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. and Philadelphia Phillies relievers Mark Appel and David Robertson, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, and Matt Carpenter also received votes in the AL.