2019 Verlander is as good if not better than 2011 and 2018
Justin Verlander is getting better with age
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.
For @JustinVerlander, good things come in threes.
(MLB x @YouTubeTV) pic.twitter.com/ngmqI3scXQ
— MLB (@MLB) September 1, 2019
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.