2019 Verlander is as good if not better than 2011 and 2018

Justin Verlander is getting better with age

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

In 2011, Justin Verlander had a year that most pitchers dream of having. He went 24-5 in 34 starts while racking up 250 strikeouts and finishing with a 0.92 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched), leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and WHIP. That made him a shoo-in for the Cy Young award, which he won in the American League.

He was in the "prime" of his career at 28 years old, and many pitchers begin a slow (or fast) regression as fatigue starts to plague their game. Justin Verlander is no ordinary pitcher. Fast forward eight years from the fantastic 2011 season and the 36-year-old is again dominating the league en route to what should be, though teammate Gerrit Cole might give him a run for his money, a second Cy Young award.

Getting his first no-hitter since 2011

On Sunday, Verlander accomplished a feat that had only happened 302 times before in baseball history by holding an opposing team without a single hit in a game. Not only did it put him on a short list of pitchers who had good enough starts to do so, but it also wasn't even his first entry on that list.

Not only did he also throw one in his incredible 2011 campaign, but his first came in his second full year in the league back in 2007. That means with Sunday's historic game against the Blue Jays in Toronto he now has three such games on his eventual Hall of Fame resume.

Thirty-five pitchers have thrown multiple no-hitters, but that list shrinks to six that have three or more. Verlander joins the upper-echelon of pitchers including Larry Corcoran (3), Bob Feller (3), Sandy Koufax (4), along with Cy Young himself (3), with all of them looking up at Nolan Ryan who had seven over his illustrious career.

Striking out batters left and right

While 250 strikeouts in 2011 were enough to lead the entire MLB, times have changed. In today's game where hitters are trying to go all-or-nothing with home runs, it gives pitchers the chance to take advantage and put together historic strikeout numbers. While Nolan Ryan may never have his 383 strikeouts from his 1973 season beaten, that doesn't mean that what Verlander is doing in an Astros uniform is any less impressive.

Verlander had a career-best 290 Ks in 2018, and he's on pace for even more this year. As the calendar turns to September, he currently sits with 257 on the season after 28 starts, coming out to an average of about 8.7 strikeouts in each. He has, however, reached double-digits in strikeouts in eight of his last night starts. With at least four starts likely in the regular season, and considering the teams he will be facing, it's entirely probable that he bests last season and hits another career-high in a season.

WHIP it real good

Another reason that Verlander could have won his second Cy Young last season, instead of being bested by Blake Snell, was his WHIP. Before 2018, Verlander had finished with a WHIP under 1.00 just one other time, and that was back in 2011 when he had a 0.920. Last season, he did one better by leading the entire majors with a 0.902.

So far in 2019, he's blowing that out of the water, with Sunday's no-hitter moving him down to a 0.77 on the season, a number which if continued could put him towards the top of all-time best seasons by WHIP, led by Pedro Martinez who finished with a 0.7373 in 2000.

A historic regular season is great, but Verlander will want more


So, while there is still a month of regular-season baseball left in 2019, all signs are pointing towards this being one of, if not the, best seasons of Justin Verlander's already storied career. What will cap that off, and what Verlander himself is undoubtedly more motivated and setting his attention towards, is leading this Astros rotation in what should be a fun, and hopefully successful, playoff appearance.

Beyond that, don't expect him even to consider slowing down any time soon. With two years left on his current contract with the Astros, during which he will most assuredly earn another long-term deal, it's clear that he is around to stay for many more years to come. With that, as we've seen in 2018 and 2019, he could continue to get better, and not worse, with age.

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Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After the Mariners came alive late in Monday's series opener to hand the Houston the loss and keep their playoff picture hanging in the balance, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park on Tuesday to try and decrease their magic number. Here's how the middle game went:

Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 1.

Record: 28-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Casey Sadler (1-2, 5.40 ERA).

Both teams trade first-inning runs

The Astros struck first in Tuesday's game, not waiting around until the ninth inning to get on the board. Instead, they jumped out to an immediate 1-0 lead after a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the top of the first. The Mariners responded quickly, though, getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before a two-out RBI-double of their own to tie it 1-1.

Astros score five in the sixth

The 1-1 score held all the way until the top of the sixth when the Astros would flip the script from the night prior, taking advantage of some mistakes by Seattle to put up a big inning. First, Michael Brantley started the inning with a solo go-ahead homer to make it 2-1. Then, Kyle Tucker would get his third hit of the night with one out before eventually scoring after a walk and two wild pitches, making it 3-2. With two walks to keep the inning alive and put some insurance runs on base, Martin Maldonado took advantage with a big three-run home run to extend the lead to 6-1.

Valdez finishes seven strong, Astros even series

After allowing the one run in the bottom of the first, Framber Valdez recovered and put together a solid outing on the mound. He allowed just five hits total, two of which came in the first, then back-to-back singles in the fourth and a single in the fifth, while otherwise keeping the Mariners at bay. He would end up completing seven innings of one-run baseball while striking out eight. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 108 P.

After Valdez, Enoli Paredes would take over in the bottom of the eighth, working around a leadoff single to get a scoreless inning to keep it 6-1. In the non-save situation, Josh James would come in for the bottom of the ninth and finish off the win for Houston.

Up Next: The finale and rubber game of this three-game set will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA) for the Mariners going against Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) for the Astros.

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