What are the odds of a 39-year-old starting pitcher with 3,014 innings pitched successfully coming back from Tommy John surgery and being among the most dominant pitchers in the league?
Not zero is the right answer, otherwise there wouldn’t be an explanation to what Houston Astros‘ star pitcher Justin Verlander is doing.
After his win against the Texas Rangers on Thursday (in which he allowed a single run in seven frames), the veteran right-hander’s ERA stands at 1.73.
Justin Verlander in four starts this season:
5 earned runs
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) April 28, 2022
The Astros Gambled On Verlander’s Health, And It’s Paying Off
Verlander underwent the surgery in the fall of 2020 and used the whole 2021 season to rehab.
He signed a lucrative contract to remain in Houston in the process, a team that showed faith in him and his right arm.
That faith paid off for the Astros.
Verlander has pitched four games and 26 innings so far in April, and they have been stellar.
He has a 1-1 record, 28 strikeouts, and a minuscule 0.69 WHIP.
He has become the ace the Astros needed during last year’s postseason run, when Lance McCullers Jr. was injured.
He was recovering at the time, so he wasn’t really an option, but right now, he seems ready to make a run at the Cy Young award, which he won in 2019 (his last full season).
With the way he is currently pitching, he is more than capable of competing for the award.
The Astros certainly need him at his best, however, because three competitors in the AL West got significantly better during the offseason: the Rangers, the Seattle Mariners, and the Los Angeles Angels.
The division will be a hotly-contested matchup from start to finish, and if Verlander is healthy, he could be the difference between a division crown or coming up empty-handed.