It's hard to ignore the familiar vibes Astros' Justin Verlander is giving off right now
Sports science and medicine have seen some scary improvements. ACL, Achilles, and Tommy John surgeries usually meant the end of a career. Then it meant you'd never be the same, but could still play. Now, it's a blip on the radar screen or something that should be monitored. Athletes are now more in tune with their bodies and the rigors of their seasons. They now diet and train specifically for their sports and the particular positions they play. Gone are the days of smoking cigarettes at halftime (RIP Len Dawson), waiting until camp to get into shape, and playing multiple sports at a high level.
One guy at the forefront of this movement has been Tom Brady. His TB12 brand is more than another athlete peddling his merch. It's also a fitness and lifestyle brand that encourages people to live a healthier life that he's developed in conjunction with his personal trainer Alex Guerrero. To say it's worked would be an understatement. Brady, 45, is entering his 23rd year playing the most important position in football and is doing so at a very high level. He's still considered one of the best at his position in the league.
Justin Verlander is MLB's Tom Brady. Verlander, 39, is the AL Cy Young leading candidate. 16-3, a 1.87 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP, 149 innings pitched, and 148 Ks in 23 starts. Those aren't just Cy Young numbers, they're the numbers of a pitcher who should be considered for AL MVP as well. Did I mention he's coming off Tommy John surgery and only pitched six innings the last two years?
Like Brady, Verlander has been doing this a very long time. He's gone 15 years between his first and last All Star appearances (nine overall), eight years between his two Cy Young award wins, and went 12 years between his first & last no-hitters (three overall). When he re-signed for two years $50 million (player option for next season), some were skeptical. I was not one of them. This guy is a pro's pro and knows how to pitch. He also knows his body, which is why he and the team decided he needed to come out after throwing six no-hit innings (91 pitches, 10Ks) in his last start against the Twins. If you look at the stats and science, pitchers coming off Tommy John shouldn't throw more than 150-160 innings. Verlander is fully expected to shatter that notion. He's the exception, not the rule.
Guys like this don't come around anymore. Gone are the days of starting pitchers throwing 180-200+ innings (per season) of high quality baseball over the course of their careers. In his previous 17 seasons, the only times Verlander hasn't thrown more than 180 innings: 2005 he pitched in 2 games (didn't qualify as a rookie), 2015 he started on the injured list, 2020 he threw six innings in one start and missed the 2021 season with the surgery/recovery.
When he inevitably opts out and looks to re-sign, Jim Crane and James Click need to give him another blank check. I don't care what it costs. You cannot put a value on a guy you know will take the ball every fifth day, throw at least 180 innings every year, and give you a chance to win every time he takes the mound. He and his wife love it here. He won his only ring here. Fans, teammates, and media all universally love him. He's a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer. Let's make sure it's an Astros hat on that plaque.