Verlander could be on Cy Young pace yet again

5 strikes from Justin Verlander's hot start to 2019

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After finishing second in Cy Young voting in 2018 to Blake Snell, many may have thought that the 2018 season would be as close as Justin Verlander would ever get to the award at this late stage in his career. Verlander is writing a different story, though, with his strong start to 2019.

1) Undefeated through six starts again

Through the first six starts of 2019, Verlander currently boasts a 4-0 record. The two games he didn't earn a win were his two worst starts so far, one being a four-run four-inning start against the Rangers in Arlington, the other a three-run six-inning start at home against the Yankees. He was taken off the hook in Arlington, though the Astros would end up losing the game, then similarly he was taken out of losing position in the Yankees game before Houston would get the go-ahead run later in the game, resulting in a no-decision for Verlander. Though it's unlikely he'll go undefeated all season, he's matched his win-loss record through six starts he had last year, where he had the same 4-0 record with two no-decisions.

2) Steady lowering of ERA 

After that three-run Yankees game mentioned earlier, Verlander's ERA had ballooned up to 4.24. In the three games since, he's allowed just one run in each, making it three runs over twenty-one innings to lower his 4.24 ERA back down to 2.61, which is currently seventh best in the American League. He'll need to continue to lower that ERA to match his 2018 pace, though, because at this point last season he had a spectacular 1.36 before lowering it even further to 1.05 at the ten-start mark.

3) Reliability to log innings

One of the biggest cases against Snell in the Cy Young voting in 2018 was that he didn't meet the traditionally-expected 200-inning mark. Verlander meanwhile threw 214 innings over his 34 starts last season. In 2019, Verlander has logged 38 innings over six starts, which has him comfortably on pace to put up another 200-plus inning season, a trait that has been a great benefit for Houston's bullpen that has to account for fewer innings of relief.

4) Easily addressable issues

Though the first six games of 2019, the two biggest flaws with Verlander's stats, by his standards, are that he's allowed a home run in each start and has walked 1.5 batters per game. These are easily and likely just early-season spot issues that someone, as experienced as Justin Verlander, can tweak quickly, as he has in previous seasons.

5) Big, historic strikeout numbers

Although Gerrit Cole's overall stat line is much worse than it was at this point last year, one highlight of his early season has been his role in another strikeout leader battle with Justin Verlander. Much like last season where they would trade spots on the strikeout leaderboard, they are doing the same again with Cole leading the AL with 54 and Verlander in third with 46. That puts Verlander on a similar pace to what he accomplished in his career-high 290 strikeout season in 2018. To tie it all together, Verlander is likely to pass several Hall of Fame pitchers for career strikeouts in 2019 including Cy Young himself. Verlander currently sits at 2,752 which is just 51 Ks away from Cy Young's 21st-best 2,803.

Looking forward: Verlander is projected to get two starts this week, one tonight on the road in Minnesota against the Twins, then he will be scheduled to get the nod on Sunday in Mexico City in the two-game international series against the Angels. Past that, if he can keep up his current pace, he should be a lock for the All-Star game and should be in the conversation for Cy Young at season's end.

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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