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Friday, June 17, 2022

From Tommy John to Cy Young form at 39? Inside Justin Verlander’s unprecedented return to dominance [$]

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His return in 2021 a nonstarter, Verlander began watching games again during the playoffs and lived vicariously through the Astros’ run to the World Series, which they lost to Atlanta. The day after the season ended, Verlander hit free agency for the first time in his career. Houston tagged him with the qualifying offer, and he decided to sign within the next 10 days.

“Houston was at the top of the list,” Verlander said. “As negotiations started going, they kind of fell off. Some other teams really started to show a lot of interest. I would say that the leader was probably Toronto. They were great. And I talked to George (Springer, his former Astros teammate now with the Blue Jays) a bunch. They were very proactive to the point that when I signed with Houston, I made sure to let them know that I appreciated it all. Ultimately, when it came down to it, Houston had the same offer. It was all kind of ballpark between them and Toronto, and New York (Yankees) was kind of always just a step behind.”

Despite Verlander pitching in just one game over the previous two seasons, the Astros gave him a one-year, $25 million contract with a player option for $25 million if he reaches 130 innings this season. He’s more than halfway there already, logging 78.2 innings over a dozen starts, allowing the fewest baserunners per inning of every pitcher in MLB and carving through lineups as if time had jumped from 2019 to today.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 17, 2022 at 11:39 AM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: justin verlander

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   1. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 18, 2022 at 08:17 AM (#6082651)
He must've thought, "Hey, I'm not on the Tigers anymore, so I don't have to suck!"
   2. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: June 18, 2022 at 11:42 AM (#6082674)
I'll admit to getting this one wrong. I thought that Verlander was done. Pitchers this old missing effectively two whole seasons - yeesh. Good on the Astros for the foresight that I don't have.
   3. JRVJ Posted: June 18, 2022 at 12:02 PM (#6082677)
Verlander is very quietly, but relentlessly going up on a number of counting stats leaderboards.

He is already 17th in Strikeouts (at 3,091 - he could end up as high as 12th by the end of this season, since that spot is currently held by Fergie Jenkins at 3,192 Ks).

He is 28th in career BWar (at 74.5 - he could reasonably finish at 27th this year, and then pass a bunch of pitchers next year, to get up to 20th and even higher, since there's a scrum of pitchers in the 80 to 85 career BWar range)

He is 64th in Wins (tied at 234 - he could reasonably get to 247 Wins by the end of the year and a tie for 50th place),

And he is at 130th in IPs (he has 3,066.2 - he could reasonably get to 110 this year, which is Livan Hernández, with 3,189 IP).
   4. BDC Posted: June 18, 2022 at 12:12 PM (#6082679)
The word "unprecedented" in a headline always gets me wondering :) Disappearing for a while and returning at age 39 to be a top starting pitcher is certainly not common.

John Smoltz came to mind, but is only a partial parallel. In the spring of 2005, Smoltz was about to turn 38, hadn't started a game in the previous three seasons, and hadn't been a rotation regular in the previous five. He then turned in three straight All-Star-quality seasons as a starter, as if nothing had ever happened.

Still, Smoltz had been a star reliever, so he hadn't vanished. The closer parallel would be Babe Adams. Sore arm, pitched poorly at age 34; down to the Western League at 35, back up to Kansas City at 36, and then three straight seasons for the Pirates as one of the league's top starters. Adams didn't sit out; he was working regularly in the minors – but he was a long way down from where he'd been.

Apologies if these cases are mentioned in TF paywalled A ...
   5. Tony S Posted: June 18, 2022 at 12:37 PM (#6082681)
Dennis Martinez. Not quite at the same level as Verlander or Smoltz, but another fine pitcher who looked like he was finished,missed a couple of years,and eventually reascended to a level even better than before. He kept it going for quite a few years too.
   6. cardsfanboy Posted: June 18, 2022 at 02:33 PM (#6082699)
The word "unprecedented" in a headline always gets me wondering :) Disappearing for a while and returning at age 39 to be a top starting pitcher is certainly not common.


Reading this, my first thought was Bartolo Colon, but he was always there, just not really a pitcher, I mean from age 33 to 38 he pitched a grand total of 257 inning with an era+ of 89... followed that up with 507 innings at an era+ of 121
   7. Walt Davis Posted: June 18, 2022 at 05:03 PM (#6082712)
At this point, I'm not sure which is more rare -- the pitcher who comes back after missing a year or the Roger Clemens who was essentially never hurt -- 29+ starts every year from 1986-2005 except 1994 (24, not his fault) and 1995 (23, missed 5-6 weeks).

Randy Johnson missed half his age 39 season, 2nd in the CYA (to Clemens!) at 40 (led the league in Ks, ERA+ and FIP), missed 2/3 of age 43, still a very good pitcher at 44.

From ages 33-35, Reuschel threw just 112 innings. From 36-40, 1090 IP, 117 ERA+ (his career average), a 3rd in CYA.
   8. BDC Posted: June 18, 2022 at 05:20 PM (#6082715)
I always like looking at Joe McGinnity's career page. For an "Iron Man," McGinnity got a late start at pro baseball and only pitched ten years in the majors. In the old-style encyclopedias, he just drops off the page after 1908, age 37.

But McGinnity went straight to the Eastern League, and starred there for a while, then worked his way down through B leagues till he went 2-7 for Vancouver at age 47 and that looked like the end of the road. He took a job coaching semi-pro baseball for a club called the Decatur Staleys who became better known for football.

And then at age 52, McGinnity came back to go 15-12 as player-manager for Dubuque of the Class D Mississippi Valley League, and (says his SABR bio, though not B-Ref) they won their pennant.

So Verlander has a ways to go :-D
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: June 18, 2022 at 06:36 PM (#6082733)
At this point, I'm not sure which is more rare -- the pitcher who comes back after missing a year or the Roger Clemens who was essentially never hurt -- 29+ starts every year from 1986-2005 except 1994 (24, not his fault) and 1995 (23, missed 5-6 weeks).


I think both are a bit rare, it feels like a way to rate grade great players a bit. With Tommy John, we've seen plenty of great pitchers come back, but it's not a guarantee, especially late in the career. At the same time you do have a few guys who just exist year in year out. Not on the par of Maddux or Clemens etc... but still you have them.
   10. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: June 18, 2022 at 07:17 PM (#6082741)
Reading this, my first thought was Bartolo Colon, but he was always there,


Go to his bb-ref page. Notice the gap where a 2010 season should be? He missed a full season. And when he came back had his best season in 6 years. He counts.
   11. Howie Menckel Posted: June 18, 2022 at 09:04 PM (#6082747)
New York (Yankees) was kind of always just a step behind.”


2022 ERA+s entering today

Cortes 195
Montgomery 139
Severino 135
Taillon 129
Cole 113 (!)

Verlander 194

the Yankees are now 49-16

I want to say Verlander would have been overkill, and a poor use of resources where there is no area of need.

I say "want to," because the Yankees in the last dozen years have failed in the postseason and I'm not sure who other than Cole can ramp up their games come October.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: June 18, 2022 at 09:14 PM (#6082749)
Colon did pitch a bit in Mexico in 2009-10 and 2010-11. If memory serves, that was the year of using stem cells (or "stem cells") to treat his elbow.
   13. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: June 18, 2022 at 09:18 PM (#6082751)
Man, this article would have been a catfight about steroids ten years ago.
   14. BDC Posted: June 19, 2022 at 07:24 AM (#6082779)
you do have a few guys who just exist year in year out

I saw Rich Hill in Arlington earlier this season, at first assumed it must be Rich Hill Jr., but no … of course there were years in his 20s and 30s where he bounced up and down from the minors, unusual these days, but he has pitched in some major-league games for 18 years in a row. And four of his top five ML innings-pitched totals have come since age 36.

But yes, it's interesting – assuming guys like Verlander and Hill are not on steroids now, that would imply … that maybe guys can succeed at advanced ages without a magic dose of juice? and in retrospect, that it might be really hard to tell if a given guy BITD was availing himself of that magic, or just being one of those oddities.
   15. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2022 at 10:52 AM (#6082786)

I say "want to," because the Yankees in the last dozen years have failed in the postseason and I'm not sure who other than Cole can ramp up their games come October.


I'm curious about the definition of failed. It's not like they have been a powerhouse team that under performed, they lost a few wild card series, lost a division championship to the clearly superior Astros. They won exactly one division title since 2013. A ton of wild card appearances.
   16. Howie Menckel Posted: June 19, 2022 at 04:26 PM (#6082831)
I would say that having a winning record every year since 1992 (!), and reaching the playoffs nine times in the last 12 years but not winning a pennant even with regular-season win totals that have included 103, 100, 97, 95, and 95 - well, don't take my definition of "failed." ask any of the 10 million or so Yankees fans.

say what one will, they set a high standard of expectations - and off the first decade in a century of not winning a World Series (and in fact not even getting there), I can confirm that "failed" is exactly their word for it.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2022 at 05:39 PM (#6082840)
I would say that having a winning record every year since 1992 (!), and reaching the playoffs nine times in the last 12 years but not winning a pennant even with regular-season win totals that have included 103, 100, 97, 95, and 95 - well, don't take my definition of "failed." ask any of the 10 million or so Yankees fans.

say what one will, they set a high standard of expectations - and off the first decade in a century of not winning a World Series (and in fact not even getting there), I can confirm that "failed" is exactly their word for it.


Just looking at bb-ref and apparently the Yankees won the world series in 2009, 2000, 1999, 1998, and 1996. so the 1992 comment doesn't really track with anything.

Not winning a pennant since 2010, which seems to be the crux of the argument, is an issue, but considering that they have only won the division 3 times in that time frame, and none of those years did anyone reasonably conclude they were the best team in the league, it's not surprising at all that they didn't win a pennant.
   18. Howie Menckel Posted: June 19, 2022 at 05:56 PM (#6082842)
a team that wins 103, 100, 97, 95, and 95 games while never having a losing record in a span of 12 years but never wins a pennant is "not surprising at all"?

you appear to be a very, very difficult man to surprise.

it's one thing not to be surprised in any one of those years. but the group of fans who don't expect their team to win a single pennant out of 490 wins in five years could fit in a phone booth (if such things still existed).

and fans who enjoyed those four WS titles in 5 years (and they lost a 9th-inning lead while trying to make it 5 out of 6) as well as almost three decades of strong teams and awareness of a century of dominance - trust me, they didn't see this drought coming.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2022 at 06:36 PM (#6082846)
They are idiots then, not really seeing an issue, in theory if you win the division three times, you expect to win the pennant once, the Yankees have more or less performed according to expectations. The fact that their fan base is idiots, doesn't really change that.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2022 at 06:40 PM (#6082847)
a team that wins 103, 100, 97, 95, and 95 games while never having a losing record in a span of 12 years but never wins a pennant is "not surprising at all"?


Cardinals say high, last losing season for the Yankees, 2014, Cardinals 2007. Cardinals pennant in 2011, Yankees in 2009. It happens to the best teams.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: June 19, 2022 at 07:10 PM (#6082848)
Cardinals say high, last losing season for the Yankees, 2014,

no, although 84-78 matches the Yankees' lowest win pct in almost 3 decades so it no doubt felt that way to their fans.

Most wins by Yankees or Cardinals since either last won a World Series
2019 Yankees 103
2018 Yankees 100
2016 Cardinals 100
2011 Yankees 97
2013 Cardinals 97
2012 Yankees 95
2010 Yankees 95
2021 Yankees 92
2017 Yankees 91
2019 Cardinals 91
2020 Cardinals 90

I'm not even a Yankees fan, but you know, they are pretty good at winning baseball games for ... ever
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2022 at 07:12 PM (#6082849)
no, although 84-78 matches the Yankees' lowest win pct in almost 3 decades so it no doubt felt that way to them.


Damnit, I hate when I read pyth instead of actual record. My bad. (and sadly this isn't the first time I made the exact same mistake)
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2022 at 07:22 PM (#6082850)
Still doesn't really change a thing, 3 division titles, no pennants is not really a bad thing, the odds more or less say 3 division titles, 1 pennant, they fell behind after a decade of being ahead of the odds.
   24. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 19, 2022 at 08:13 PM (#6082852)
Last back-to-back losing seasons
STL: 1994-95
NYY: 1991-92

Last 3 consecutive losing seasons
STL: 1954-56 (!)
NYY: 1990-92

Last 4 consecutive losing seasons
STL: 1907-10 (!!)
NYY: 1989-92
   25. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: June 19, 2022 at 11:50 PM (#6082857)
a team that wins 103, 100, 97, 95, and 95 games while never having a losing record in a span of 12 years but never wins a pennant is "not surprising at all"?

Eh. Only the 2010 and 2011 Yankees in that stretch had the AL's best record, and even then, the top spot was a very tight race. (2010's top 4 AL teams had 95, 94, 93 and 93 wins; 2011 went 97-96-95.) The 100-win team in 2018 lost to the 108-win Red Sox; the 103-win team in 2019 lost to the 107-win Astros. Obviously the team with the best record doesn't always win, but I don't see a year in there where the Yankees definitely "should have" won.

Would you expect a pennant or two out of this stretch? Probably (if you treat each series as a coin flip, the Yankees' expected pennants based on their postseason entry point since 2010 would be 1.625, expected championships would be half that at 0.8125). But (a) the underperformance is not particularly notable (some team or another is likely to be underperforming significantly during any given stretch of time), and (b) it's based on an inherently biased sample, since it starts immediately after their last title.

As far as the feelings of Yankee fans about this stretch... as a fan of a team that is not the Yankees, my reaction is somewhere between indifference and schadenfreude.
   26. Howie Menckel Posted: June 20, 2022 at 12:44 AM (#6082859)
that seems about right - anyone "not surprised" that they didn't even win 1 pennant in that stretch - well, that in itself is a stretch.

not as much with a WS title - but that goes more specifically to a Yankees fan expectation specifically.

I'm in the NYC-area market, and for 30 years Yankees fans on WFAN radio (not a completely coherent sample size, but if the overall sentiment was wildly different, I think I'd have heard at least one call to the contrary in the last few decades) that they expect to win a WS and anything less in a given year is a failure.

I have always thought that the fairer and very high standard would be that they expect their team to win the pennant every year - and the WS would be a bonus. but that is not their standard.

now, this is all when the Mets were a huge market team with a small market mindset.
now the Yankees are fiscally conscious while the Mets have a rapacious mega-billionaire owner who engages Mets fans on Twitter.

the No. 1 gripe he got from fans was why don't they bring back Old-Timer's Day. it's coming next month - one player representing each of the Mets' first 60 years.

the next request he will get is to poach Aaron Judge from the Yankees this winter.

that would be Armageddon - but I don't put it past him, luxury tax be damned.

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