Justin Verlander is one of baseball's true aces

While the current version of the Detroit Tigers are best known for their offensive productivity, the rock of this era of Motor City baseball is and has been the right arm of pitcher Justin Verlander.  

Not coincidently, Verlander's rookie season of 2006 exactly coincides with the team's return to baseball respectability. Certainly, Jim Leyland's '06 arrival is hugely significant to the Tigers' fortunes, but when it comes to getting it done between the lines, Verlander has been Detroit's top performer.

Drafted second overall in the 2004 Draft, out of Old Dominion University, Verlander surged onto the scene winning the '06 American League Rookie of the Year and hurling a no-hitter vs. the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007.

Going into Tuesday's start vs. the Seattle Mariners, Verlander has amassed a career record of 70-45.  This season, Verlander's consistency has continued, as evidenced by his 5-2 record and 3.43 ERA.

Aside from his poor 2008 season, where he went 11-17, Verlander has lived up to every bit of his advanced billing.  As long as he remains the Tigers' ace, the team will have the ability to contend every single season.  This is the definition of a true ace.

The Tigers admiration for Verlander and Verlander's obvious interest in winning a championship with the Tigers was on display last winter, when he signed a 5-year/$80 million extension with the team.

Verlander's success and long term commitment to the area has made him a true fan favorite. Below is a piece of video exhibiting this situation.

The setting was an autograph signing at the Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights, Michigan, earlier this month. Verlander and this group of Tigers' fans appear to really enjoy each other's company.  

Also, take a look at a story, shared by a fan, about meeting Jim Leyland at a Minneapolis hotel.

Photograph Source: AP