Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander is 35 and for most professional baseball pitchers is closer to ending his career than when he started. However, in 11 starts this season the right-hander is 6-2 with an ERA of 1.08. His games have not been only dominant but approach the best for starting a MLB season.
One Wednesday in his most recent start, one might call Verlander’s performance average. The Astros beat the San Francisco Giants 4-1 and Verlander allowed one run while striking out nine in six innings of work. Verlander called himself “rusty,” as he was pitching on six days rest.
Regardless, he executed his pitches when he most needed to against a Giants lineup that makes pitchers work hard to get them out.
Verlander, following Wednesday’s results, has now completed a minimum of 6 innings pitched and given up two runs or less in each of his last nine starts, which is the longest streak of that kind by a pitcher with the Astros since 1986 when Mike Scott set the franchise record with 14 straight games. That season Scott was the Cy Young Award winner in the National League.
In his 11 starts this season, Verlander has allowed just 11 runs and has allowed one run or less in eight of his 11 starts. When looking at each start individually an argument can be made for Verlander to be 11-0 and not 6-2 at his point of the season, if he had received better run support from his offense. However, in two of his starts, the Astros were shutout and held to one run in two other starts.
In a start against the high-scoring New York Yankees, Verlander had 14 strikeouts in eight shutout innings, but finished with a no-decision.
After 11 starts, Verlander is first in the majors in ERA at 1.08, first in WAR at 3.0, first in innings pitched at 74.2, first in wOBA at .205, first in batting average allowed at .148, fourth in strikeouts behind just Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole and Chris Sale and seventh in ratio of strikeouts to walks at 6.20.
He may be 35, but Verlander could be headed for some of his best pitching, as others have done at that age prior to him. Randy Johnson was 35 when he won his first Cy Young and then proceeded to win three more. Curt Schilling had 316 strikeouts and was 23-7 when he was 35 and Roger Clemons was a Cy Young winner and ERA leader in the American League at age 35.