St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols and Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander were named the recipients of the respective 2022 National League and American League Comeback Player of the Year Awards.
The Comeback Player of the Year Awards are officially sanctioned by MLB and have been presented annually since 2005 to one player in each League who has re-emerged on the field during the season. The winners were determined by a vote among the 30 team beat reporters from MLB.com.
Pujols, who spent part of the 2021 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers after being released by the Los Angeles Angels, returned to St. Louis for 2022 and registered an impressive final season of his career at the age of 42.
The three-time National League MVP Award winner played in 109 games, hitting .270/.345/.550 with 24 home runs, 68 RBI, 14 doubles and a 150 wRC+. His .895 on-base plus slugging percentage was his highest in a season since 2011 (.906), and his 24 home runs were his most since 2016 when he hit 31.
Pujols hit 18 home runs after the All-Star break, becoming the fourth player in MLB history to hit 700 career home runs. The 11-time All-Star was also selected to the Midsummer Classic for the first time since 2015 and participated in the 2022 Home Run Derby.
Verlander, who missed the entire 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, returned this season and posted an American League-leading ERA of 1.75, the lowest by an AL pitcher since Pedro Marinez in 2000, and he struck out 185 hitters in 28 starts. The 39-year old also led the AL in WHIP (0.83), wins (18), opponents’ batting average (.186), opponents’ OPS (.497), and hits per nine innings (5.97).
Verlander also became the first Major League pitcher to win a Cy Young Award after not pitching in the previous year and he became the 11th pitcher in Major League history to win at least three Cy Young awards, previously winning the award 2019 and 2011, when he also claimed the AL MVP Award.
The right-hander is now a free agent and has been connected to the Dodgers.
MLB Comeback Player of the Year voting
Other players who received votes for AL Comeback Player of the Year included three-time AL MVP Award winner Mike Trout of the Angels, Matt Carpenter of the New York Yankees, and Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros.
Other players who received votes for NL Comeback Player of the Year included Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves, Mark Appel and David Robertson of the Philadelphia Phillies, Brandon Drury and Nick Martinez of the San Diego Padres, and Ryan Helsley of the Cardinals.
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