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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Everyone should be talking about the Cougars! Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images.

You’re burying the lead!

Lately I’ve been watching our local news … “and now here’s (fill in the blank) with sports.”

“Over at Toyota Center, the Rockets came up short and dropped another one to the Jazz or maybe it was the Pelicans or … does it really matter?”

It doesn’t matter. The Rockets have lost 10 games in a row, 15 of their last 16, and they’re in last place in the Western Conference with the NBA’s worst record. They’re on track to finish with an even worse record than last year, when they also had the worst record in the league. Their last three losses were all blowouts, dropping each game by 20-plus points. They’re terrible and getting terrible-er.

Meanwhile in the shadow of downtown there’s another basketball team with “Houston” on the front of their jerseys. That team is a different story, and it should be the lead story.

The University of Houston is 17-1, undefeated in the American Athletic Conference, riding an eight-game win streak, ranked No. 1 in the country and the betting favorite (+550 at Fanduel) to make the Final Four and win the whole March Madness tournament. That’s No. 1 ahead of Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and all the other traditional college powerhouses. The NCAA title clash essentially could be a home game for the Cougars on April 3 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

It all ties into a neat little bow for coach Kelvin Sampson and the red-hot Coogs.

And here’s another reason why the Cougars deserve our support and the sports section headline: every player on the UH team came here because they wanted to play for Houston. Rockets players are in Houston because that’s where they were drafted or traded, or in some cases because they couldn’t get a better deal with any other team.

UH players fell in love with Houston. Rockets players are in arranged marriages.

So why are the UH Cougars relegated to a mere mention before the sports anchor hands it off to the weatherman for a final update on tomorrow’s forecast?

It’s would be understandable why the Rockets hold the media’s attention ahead of the Cougars if this were a typical big market. The pros are bigger, faster and better than college players. But this is Houston, where the local college team is No. 1 in the country and the pro team is dead last in the NBA.

Even if all things were equal, which they’re not, the UH story is more compelling than the Rockets’ tale of woe. UH has a personable, inspirational coach, Kelvin Sampson, one of the most successful figures in the college game. The Rockets coach, Stephen Silas, has a low-key personality and, not entirely his fault, one of the most futile won-loss records in NBA history.

UH has a legit superstar, Marcus Sasser, a first-team All-American pick, a team leader who’s playing in his final season for the Cougars. The Rockets’ top veteran is Eric Gordon, a sourpuss who wants off the team in the worst way and the Rockets are trying their best to accommodate him.

UH is on track to make a lot of noise on the road to the Final Four, like they’ve done six times, the most recent in 2021. UH holds the frustrating record for most Final Four appearances without a championship trophy. Another good storyline. This could be their year, and what better place than their own backyard at NRG Stadium?

It’s not like the Rockets have a serious shot at the NBA Finals, but apples to apples, the NCAA tournament is a bigger deal than the NBA playoffs.

March Madness charges more for TV commercials than any sports event in the U.S. with the exception of the NFL playoffs. March Madness brought in $1 billion in ad revenue in 2021, more than the NBA playoffs and double MLB’s postseason.

Last year’s March Madness championship game had 18.1 million viewers. Last year’s championship game of the NBA Finals drew just under 14 million viewers.

It’s estimated that some 35 million Americans will fill out a bracket for March Madness contests. I’ve never worked in an office where everybody puts down $5 to buy a square in a pool for the NBA Finals. I know a guy who scheduled his vasectomy for the start of March Madness figuring he was due some serious couch time.

March Madness is a national passion. The NBA Finals are a sports event.

Bottom line: the Cougars are the No. 1 team in college hoops, and they’re taking aim at the biggest, most celebrated prize in basketball. They are the pride of our city. So let’s give the UH Cougars the respect they deserve. Give ‘em the top story.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome