We’re reviewing all 316 players to appear anywhere in Houston’s system through the 2022 campaign.
Justin Verlander is a six-foot-five, 235 lb. right-handed pitcher from Manakin Sabot, VA. Born on February 20, 1983, the three-time Cy Young Award winner was a first round choice by the Detroit Tigers in 2004 out of Old Dominion. Taken second overall, Verlander’s 77.6 WAR ranks first amongst the 50 future major leaguers taken at the position. Second place is Reggie Jackson (74.0).
Really though, this man needs no introduction to Houston faithful, but you’re going to get it anyway. He made his major league debut just a year after being drafted and eventually played 13 years with the Tigers. He was 183-114 with a 3.49 ERA, a 1.191 WHIP, and 8.5 K/9, with 2,373 strikeouts in 2,511 innings pitched. He also made the American League All Star Team six times with Detroit, as well as winning the 2011 AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP. He led the AL in strikeouts four times, innings pitched three times, and WHIP twice.
At the 2017 trade deadline, the Tigers made Verlander an Astro. Far from a reclamation project, he was instantly considered the “ace” of the rotation. According to baseball-reference.com:
Traded by the Detroit Tigers with a player to be named later and cash to the Houston Astros for Franklin Pérez (minors), Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers. The Detroit Tigers sent Juan Ramirez (minors) (October 13, 2017) to the Houston Astros to complete the trade.
Whatever Houston gave up turned out to be completely worth it. Verlander closed out the 2017 season by going 5-0 down the stretch with a 1.06 ERA and a 0.647 WHIP.
Maybe you weren’t paying attention...I mean maybe you were, but Verlander led the major leagues in WHIP in each of his three full seasons as an Astro: 0.902 in 2018, 0.803 in 2019, and 0.829 in 2022, making the All Star team in each of those campaigns.
If you had thought when Verlander arrived in Houston that his best years were behind him, you would be mistaken. He easily topped his already Hall-of-Fame worthy numbers. In 102 starts, he was 61-19 with a 2.26 ERA and a 0.833 WHIP. By the way, that’s 0.358 WHIP and a full run+ ERA better than his time in Detroit if you can believe it.
The 2022 season would start off with Verlander making his first post-Tommy John Surgery starts. Coming off of that particular surgery and at the age of 39, I don’t think any of us expected him to be as good as he was. I mean, we all thought he would probably still be pretty good, but 2022 was arguably his best season as a professional.
By definition, the “average” pitching GameScore works out to be 50, a number that Verlander topped in 26 of his 28 starts through the season. He posted a figure of 70 or better in 11 starts, which is just ridiculous.
On April 16, in Verlander’s second game of the season, he pitched eight shutout, three-hit innings, striking out eight in a 4-0 win over the Seattle Mariners. On May 10, he allowed one hit and two walks over another eight shutout frames, striking out five and earning the win in a 5-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins. On June 29, in a 2-0 win over the New York Mets, Verlander struck out six and walked one, allowing two hits in another eight shutout innings. On August 23, he struck out 10 over six perfect innings to earn his 16th win, a 4-2 decision against the Twins.
Verlander’s out-of-this-world regular season would be joined by Cristian Javier’s coming out party and Framber Valdez’ Quality Start streak, not to mention Hunter Brown’s debut, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy’s solid contributions, and Lance McCuller Jr.’s return to action. The only knock on Verlander has long been an inexplicable inability to dominate in the World Series. Not so in 2022.
Verlander went 2-0 in four starts through the postseason, striking out 25 in 20 innings. Although he gave up 13 earned runs, the monkey was off his back, as he earned his first World Series victory in Game Five, a 3-2 Houston win.
Of course, post-postseason, Verlander shopped his talents around, and found a taker in the New York Mets. He signed with them for two years and $86.7 million, with a $35 million vesting option for 2025 (if he tops 140 IP in 2024). Although we often talk about being able to “afford” losing Verlander, it’s clear that he was a cut above even the best pitchers in the majors. Thanks for reading.