In praise of Justin Verlander


Friend of the blog, Becky, was asking us before Sunday’s game, do we remember what we were doing at 11:59 PM on August 31st two years ago. Not sure what everyone else was doing, but I’m pretty sure I was sleeping. But most of us awoke to a glorious September 1st, that brought us one of the best pitchers ever and one who would be the catalyst for the Astros first World Series run.

Flash forward two seasons to another glorious September 1st and Justin Verlander with the help of his new best friend, rookie Abraham Toro, threw a 120 pitch no-hit gem in beating the Blue Jays 2-0. Do not be surprised if like the trade two seasons ago, that the team springboards off this gritty performance to new heights in the weeks to come.

It is easy to point to the statistical brilliance of JV since he came to Houston. His overall 38-14 record, 2.43 ERA and 0.825 WHIP in those two years time are eye-popping. He has stepped up his game in 2019 (17-5, 2.56 ERA, 0.772 WHIP) as he is in a friendly cage fight with teammate Gerrit Cole for his second potential Cy Young Award. But in reality as much as Verlander has helped this team physically, he has helped them more in preparation and psychology.

In 2017, the Astros before the trade had a talented enough team to win it all. They had the best offense, solid pitching and they certainly had a better team than, say, the 2015 Royals, who won it all. But it was obvious they did not believe in themselves totally. Their best pitcher, Dallas Keuchel basically stated so when the team did not make a move at the regular trade deadline when he called out the front office. The psychological lift of adding him to the team, may well have outstripped his 5-0 / 1.06 ERA/ 0.647 WHIP September in what it did for the team.

The source of his no-hitter on Sunday can be seen in his previous start. He was tossed out of a game in the 6th inning with a 9-0 lead. Folks may wonder at the sanity of a pitcher, who would even care about ball and strike calls when comfortably ahead like that, but one of the biggest keys to Verlander’s success is his complete immersion in the moment of the game. Justin was going to give his best effort no matter what and expected everyone else including the umpire to do the same.

One of the greatest gifts Verlander gave his teammates in their race to the championship in 2017 was something he did after getting pulled and sent to the clubhouse in Game 2 of the World Series. Remember that the Astros had not only never won a World Series in their 56 season history, they had never won a World Series game having been swept in 2005 by the White Sox and beat in the first game of the 2017 series. They had fought back with a late rally to tie the 2nd game 3-3, took a 5-3 lead in the 10th and then blew that lead in the bottom of the inning. They had to be feeling down. He came out of the clubhouse and started yelling encouragement to them. He told them what a good team they are and to just get out there and play and beat the other team. Which they did.

In 2019, Verlander may lead the league or even all of baseball in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. He may win his second Cy Young award. He has already thrown his third career no-hitter behind only Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. But if he leads this team to another world championship, I am sure he won’t give a flip about all the rest. The man is a winner and hopefully it continues to rub off on all those around him.

Advertisements

74 comments on “In praise of Justin Verlander

  1. Dan, I know you are an engineer by vocation but your writing skills are immense in my humble opinion. Like so many others, this is a very skillful written post.
    The accolades you lauded on JV is the exact type of mindset that needs to infect this tm moving forward with so much at stake. JV is adamant in refusing to accept mediocre. He pitched his @%^ off yesterday & refused to quit even when his mates appeared lethargic in their effort to give him run support. Dummy me did not realize he was pitching a no hit shut out until the gm was over.
    The statistical projection of this lineup 1-7 (CC included) appears like the lives of the rich & famous. You say how in the hell does a stacked lineup like this go Ofer in any key situation? Well it happens. I’m not bashing, but if some of our key guys put forth that kind of dogged tenacity at the plate as JV displays on the mound… well, enough said. Thank you Dan for your outstanding work.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks Old School. I’ve loved to write since I was a middle schooler and in high school even thought about pursuing journalism, but ended up in an occupation where I could support my family and use the other side of my brain.

      This brings me a lot of joy and I’m glad I can tie two things I love – sports and writing – together. Folks reading it and enjoying it is a cherry on top of the sundae.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good to see YA catch up to one. Opposing P busting him up with high heat or mid out, away with success. Prob getting a little impatient chasing more than usual. He’ll adjust soon enough

    Liked by 1 person

    • On multiple occasions, I see a young player that knows the strike zone. He gets stiffed by the umpire calling a pitch out of the zone a strike. And he then decides he needs to swing at the next pitch because he may be called out anyway. He can learn from Bregman who lets each pitch stand on its own.

      Like

  3. Actually there have been a few starts that almost were no hitters, our guys couldn’t even score *ONE* run for the man. The awesome feeling we felt when we saw our team win it all, remains still to today. The wealth of knowledge he has bestowed to our young pitchers….you just can’t buy. We fans are watching history made almost every time he takes the ball….that includes Cole as well!!
    We are just bystanders watching 2 of the most dominate pitchers of this era pitch side by side……and it’s DELICIOUS!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen Becky. And GC reminded us not to forget about him with his outstanding performance today, 1R, 14 SO’s.
      *$&#, Osuna gives up a HR to tie gm. P history is being made Becky, both by JV & GC. I wish the lineup would amp it up a bit more for those guys

      Liked by 1 person

  4. For a team who has the best record in the AL the yankees didn’t act like it.
    They lost to the arlington little league 7-0. And….Asuna just blew the save.
    This bullpen gives me migraine headaches. *JEEZE.😳*

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you George and Josh for calming our frayed nerves. A bit premature to be experiencing Oct playoff nerves already. Almost a nightly occurrence, lol

    Like

    • Me too! No way should Osuna should have thrown the pitch he did. Should have been down and in or low and away. Yelich was primed and ready for a fishing expedition that would come up empty. Maybe James can be a closer next year. He just needs a little more work and a bunch of confidence. Oh BTW, Springer for President. If we don’t find a way to sign this guy to and extension then shame on us.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Very timely piece on Verlander. He’d never take a throw to first base for granted. And I don’t think he’d throw a strike to the league homerun leader on an 0-2 count in a one run game.

    On the other hand, every other pitcher did his job today. James caught a real break on yet another crappy call by a home plate ump, but it sure was good to see him throw at 98 and have real break on the breaking ball. Another excellent win against a good offensive team, and pulling even with the Yankees too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is an amazing stat.
    Since the All-Star break the four highest OPSs of all players in MLB with at least 150 AB’s are as follows:
    Alex Bregman-Houston- 1.100
    Yuli Gurriel- Houston- 1.093
    Yordan Alvarez-Houston-1.060
    Jose Altuve-Houston-1.029
    All four of the top OPS leaders since the AS break are on the same team.
    We should score more runs.

    Like

  8. Things:
    Cole and Verlander have had it up to their ears with these guys playing like crap.
    The closer role may have to be by committee. There are a handful of games left quit thinking 2 run leads are going to be “just enough”, they arent. Not counting tomorrow you guys come home to 4 against the M’s, and 4 against the A’s. They are looking to play spoiler….they would be over the moon to stick it to the Astros…ESPECIALLY the A’s. Hinch pull Asuna aside and let him know you love him, but taking a mental break is unacceptable. PERIOD.
    A.J. you brought up Tucker for a reason. The black hole of Reddick, Marisnick, and catcher (take your pick) gives you 3 outs everyday. You can’t count on every pitcher in our rotation to keep the other team off the board…..just not doable.
    All of you are tired, we get it…..but you’re going to war in about 4 weeks ACT like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky, the Astros would be smart to hire you as a “in the dugout” coach, advisor, or whatever because I bet you could sure light a fire under these guys. If they didn’t perform I believe the last thing they’d want to do is face your wrath. Can’t you imagine you giving them “what for” on National television. I’d pay real money to see that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Now that Verlander is an Astro, we finally understand what it is that others have seen in him over the years. Verlander is a rock star of a baseball pitcher. He’s a guy who gets criticized one day for not allowing a writer to come in and mess with his head or mess up the locker room and a week later the entire world of baseball is raving about him.
    He solidified a championship team in 2017 and is doing everything he can to make it happen again. He’s a pitcher, who won an MVP Trophy. What the hell else can you say about the guy? He’s baseball’s rock star. He ought to be doing commercials for Dos Equis.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Only the Yankees can get shut out 6-0 and the media makes it all about them. MLB.com interviews them and their manager and talks about their streak and you are left to wonder if there was even another team involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Astro game was to be carried here on ESPN but since the Yankee game was delayed for 3 hours so guess what, they showed the Yankee/Rangers and canned the Astro game. Needless to say I was “mildly” upset. Thank goodness for my MLB subscription so we were able to watch the game with TK and Blummer doing their excellent paly by play. Another nail biter to say the least. The only thing I can’t stand is seeing three commercials over and over again between innings.

      Like

  11. We also have the ad for Father daughter to the ball game. Mets and Yankees. No wonder we don’t know anything about the Padres or Diamondbacks or barely the Giants or Dodgers. And neither does any other place in the country.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It feels like piling on, & it’s meet that fans should do so. Honestly I’m a bit angry. Has this tm become so arrogant to think they can show up & win gms? Toronto brought in a P effectively all over the place, who mowed down our vaulted lineup like it was grass. Tuve whiffs at pitches a ft off the plate, not once, twice but thrice & SO, while his mate is pitching a no-no.
    An auto bot said in Transformers “the disrespect on this rock is criminal”. That’s what it feels like watching this tm struggle against mediocre.
    This #%^@ has got to stop!!
    OP1 gave a stat about our hot hitters. I hear that on MLB, from the booth everyday. No one mentions their stats with RISP, a biggg diff. These are seasoned WS vets now, not bucks. Can’t make excuses for them when all tms in the same position. I’m just not seeing the energy it takes to dominate from our lineup just yet.

    Like

  13. Jordan Lyles, journeyman, is suddenly pitching like an All Star. I’m sure he’d like very much to continue his recent success again his first organization. I’d like to see our guys collectively tear into him immediately and thoroughly ending the game early in a laugher That would be a nice way to head home to Houston.

    Like

  14. In venting I hope my feeling’s aren’t misplaced. That what I am witnessing is par for the course in MLB over a long season.
    Mentioned I go back & watch high scoring gms (LA, Minn, Atl, NYY). I observe how middling P mistakes get consistently sent over the walls. LA hammered Col last nite, 16-9. Col scored against their backend P when the gm was out of hand. Tms like the above mentioned rarely take 1st pitch zone strikes, they hammer them.
    I love slugfest & good (Astro P) ok I’m biased. The Astro lineup can hit for avg & power. My point is those other tms score a lot of points quite often. With our lineup so should we.

    Like

    • I don’t know Old School – this is really the dog days of summer and I find myself looking at W-L results. The Dodgers are 5-5 in their last 10 games – the Astros are 8-2. The Yankees are 7-7 in their last 14 games while the Astros are 11-3.
      The Astros struggled to score in their last three games but still won 2 of them. Before that they had scored 11, 15, 8, 8 and 7 runs.
      I know they are not hitting like they should with runners in scoring position, but at least they are getting guys in scoring position so that even with a lower BA they are scoring runs.
      Not happy about their production some times but they are winning.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah Dan, we watch our guys everyday, most every inning. We have high expectations. And we tend to focus on the negatives. Right now, we are playing a little better than the Dodgers and Yankees. If we keep this up, we’ll control our own destiny with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That’s the goal. So while I’d like to see Jordan lit up tonight, I’d gladly survive a 2-1 nail biter.

        The only time I really get pissed is when I see a half ass play like the one Osuna provided on a routine hopper to the mound yesterday. Totally inexcusable..

        Liked by 2 people

  15. Yes, it’s hard to criticize a team that is winning the majority of their games but……in all honesty, we have to agree, they could and should alter their approach at the plate.
    Altuve baffles me. Standing way back in the box and reaching for those outside pitches. He just invites pitchers to pitch him outside.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I know Dan, which is why I had to acknowledge my misplaced angst. Apologies for being overly harsh knowing Hulk & ‘smash’ rarely resides in MLB. In my 3 yr MLB tenure I can’t ever recall a tm totally dominate off. And I’m learning winning is more important than making a ‘statement’. So I’ll humble myself moving forward knowing this tm has as good a chance, is as good as any tm out there to go all the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know 62, yesterday was kind of a statement game. Our highly touted closer gave up a homer to the league home run leader, blowing another save. Personally, I’m thinking our pen is used up and they get to hit last. Not good. So George promptly launches an equally impressive dinger to give us the lead back and our kid comes in, right off the DL and battles for the real save. Our club just never packs it in. James played an essential role. The day before, Toro. That’s the stuff that makes our team so tough.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey – I understand how you are feeling Old School – they can be frustrating because we know what they can do. I guess in my mind I trust the hitting in the late innings more than the relief pitching.
      It is maddening at times

      Like

  17. For those of us that continue to bash Luhnow for not signing good Free Agents, just for reference only and not to prove a point. Right now Bryce Harper is an “offensive juggernaut” rated OPS+ 123. That would rank him 8th on the Astros. Ahead of only Jake, Chirinos and Reddick. He is only due another $318 Million from the Phillies through age 38.

    Manny Machado ranks at 112 at OPS+ this year and is due only $288 Million.

    And Dallas Keuchel has a WHIP of 1.323 which ranks him below Josh James but ahead of Devo. He is up for a another big payday this off season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s crazy. Remember when he was supposed to be one of our rising stars in the minors. Never saw it. Then again, Kevin Jarvis was young once…just goes to show even the most awful player was once a promising rookie.

      Like

    • A couple off-seasons back someone wrote an article for one of the major websites where it compared the salaries paid to players signed to their WAR from the previous year. The breakdown, with a few exceptions, was that players were getting about $8M per 1.0 WAR. That’s stuck in the common conversation as the going price per WAR for a free agent, but I don’t think it has necessarily held true. Obviously bad contracts like Heyward, Harper, and Machado can greatly skew it.

      Like

  18. We went to see Lyles debut, and he got blasted. I felt sorry for him, I always thought they brought him up waaay too soon. He’s matured into a fairly serviceable pitcher. BUT….. our local 9 are playing brain dead again.😠 The exception to that would be Reddick running into the right field wall. I’m tired of ranting about these guys, maybe someone could go to the store and get them some 10hr energy drinks. I’m out of solutions.
    OH MY GOD!!! IS SPRINGER OK?????!!!!

    Like

    • George hit his head on the wall, shortly after you posted about Reddick running into the wall. I had to look it up online because we don’t have the game on at work

      Like

    • George ran into the centerfield wall catching a fly ball. Hell of a catch but as he was coming down on one leg he fell back against the wall and hit his head. He was down for about 15 min and then they carted him off the field but he was sitting up. I suspect a concussion.

      Like

  19. Springer caught a deep fly to center field. He appeared to think he was against the wall but was maybe 3-4 feet away and on the warning track. He fell backwards after the catch and his head snapped back against the wall about 2 feet off the ground. He walked to the golf cart that took him off the field. He appeared dazed.

    Like

  20. I just saw the video……I feel sick to my stomach concussions are awful.
    Chirinos missed an entire year with one. Please God let him be ok🙏❤

    Like

  21. Saw the umpire steal a strikeout from Cionel Perez on the only batter he was allowed to face and I saw the umpire call one of the Astros hitters out on a pitch that was 3 inches below the zone.
    And I only watched 2 and a half innings all night.
    Was he that bad all night?

    Like

    • I think you saw the worst of the worst. One pitch from Greinke however, the entire ball was inside the zone on one and it was called a ball. The graphic showed the batter walked on Perez with 3 or 4 pitches inside the zone. It was just a lackluster game for the Astros. Lots of “atom” hits for the Astros.

      Like

  22. The ball and strike calling is not not getting better. But it is equally bad for everyone. Yelich got screwed twice on Monday. This was a.winnable game last night, the kind of game that keeps us talking about our frustrations. Greinke sure did struggle without his best stuff, but he did keep us in the game for 6 innings and again, the pen did it’s job. I had a bad vibe going in with Lyles on the mound. Seemed like half out line up was out of the line up last night, but Jorden Lyles should not have made our guys look so bad.

    Like

    • DB, I don’t know if it is worse or it just seems to come at the most inopportune time for these missed calls. And I agree. Neither team seems to be favored, but just random strike zones. My guess is it will continue until a Yankees or Mets playoff or World Series game is lost due to a terrible call.

      Also, I think to the average fan, they don’t see the difference in a count being 1-0 or 0-1. Or it being 1-2 instead of 2-1, or when it should be 2-2 and is at 3-1. All of those favor the batter or pitcher and alter the game situation.

      Like

  23. Apologies if I missed the comment, but does anyone recall an earlier DanP blog asking whether Bregman could hit .300? After last night’s game he’s at .297 for the season with 33HR and a .992 OPS.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Springer missed a concussion. They will see him tomorrow and make a decision on his health. No need to rush him back in the lineup, since we have Tucker and Marisnick available.
    The Angels appear to be packing it in. They played the A’S tonight and got beat 4 to 0. Trout went 0 for 4, Ohtani 0 for 4….Uncle Albert got *1* hit. WOW.
    The A’S are lining up their pitchers for next week when they come here.
    Astros will see Manaea…Fires..Bassitt…Anderson, not in that order but you can bet your blue booties these are the guys we will see. They will see Verlander, Miley, Greinke. .? Cole won’t pitch in that series.
    Daveb….Bregman eats and sleeps baseball! Brian McCann said he had never been around a guy who is so obsessed with baseball…24 / 7. Bregman absolutely HATES days off. He has made a new friend….Zack Greinke. Becky⚾

    Liked by 1 person

  25. A-Breg has the talent, the tools & the wherewithal to/will become a perennial All-Star. At 25 he has yet to reach his ceiling & is still learning/working on how good he can be.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s