Is Justin Verlander the new Nolan Ryan?

With Justin Verlander pitching so well at 35 and 36 years old, some folks are wondering if he could be like Nolan Ryan and pitch effectively into his 40s.

Our crystal ball is probably not that clear looking forward, but when we peer backwards we can compare Justin Verlander to Nolan Ryan at a similar point in their careers.

At the end of 2019, Verlander had 2982 innings in the bank.  Ryan had a similar number of innings at the end of May in 1981 in his second season with the Astros.

To date, Verlander has overall, more honors than Nolan Ryan did at that time in his career.

Verlander – Rookie of the Year, 2 Cy Young Awards, 3 No-hitters, and 8 All Star Games.

Ryan (May of 1981) – 6 All Star Games, 4 No-hitters

Statistically, they look like the following…..

Verlander. 225-129 W-L, 3.33 ERA, 2982 IP, 9.1 K/ 9 IP, 2.6 BB/ 9 IP

N. Ryan.     182-171 W-L, 3.18 ERA, 2980 IP, 9.6 K/ 9 IP, 5.3 BB/ 9 IP

It is pretty apparent that Verlander was the more accomplished pitcher overall at this point in his career with the ROY, two Cy Young awards to none and two more All Star games in his belt along with a superior won-loss %. The fact that Nolan walked double the amount of hitters per nine innings as JV is a big differentiator.

On the other hand….. Nolan started at a much younger age (debuting at 19) than Justin and was 34 years old in May 1981, while JV has already turned 37. Nolan was a workhorse who was rarely injured; he threw 157 innings at 45 years old and struck out 301 hitters at age 42!! He also was only about 1/2 way through with his career in May 1981. He would pitch for 12 more seasons, which included 3 more no-hitters, 2 more All Star games and he ended up with 324 wins and a staggering 5714 strikeouts for his career.

So where is this headed? Justin Verlander is a better version of Nolan Ryan at this point in his career, but it is hard to see him doing this 12 seasons from now. Though that is the kind of reasoning that allowed Ryan to walk away back in 1989.

36 comments on “Is Justin Verlander the new Nolan Ryan?

  1. If I was managing and had Verlander and Ryan as my aces, I would have Verlander as my # 1 because of his efficient use of the pitch count and low walk rate. That said , I would not bet on Verlander having the longevity that RYan had. Of course, when the Astros let Ryan get away, I was mistaken and couldn’t imagine the many years he had left.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the success that Ryan had in his 40’s.

    I think Verlander could have success in his 40’s due to better modern training methods and medical advances, but maybe he would prefer to retire and spend time with his family after 2021. I believe he will make the HOF, especially since the Astros will win the next 2 World Series.

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  3. It seems to me that they compare like the B-2 bomber and the B-52 bomber.
    Ryan is the B-52 with the years and the reputation, but with a lot more history, effort, losses and collateral damage connected to his method of doing things.
    Verlander seems more the B-2, accomplishing much with less effort, more stealth, less collateral damage and quiet effectiveness.
    In 27 years, Ryan accumulated 81.3 WAR
    In 15 years, Verlander has accumulated 71.6 WAR. It’s likely that he may have more WAR by age 40 than Ryan did in his 27 years of pitching.
    They both spent quite a few years pitching in big parks. Ryan in the Astrodome and Verlander in Detroit, before they moved the fences in and down.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. JV
    ERA3.33; FIP 3.41; xFIP 3.72
    Ryan
    ERA 3.19; FIP 2.97

    The closer the numbers, the truer a perspective of ERA. Fangraphs didn’t track xFIP for Ryan, so we can’t take the deeper dive there. Even so, these numbers are superlative for a career, no doubt.

    Nolan pitched to a pitcher more often, than a full-time American League DH, which *may be* more apples-to-apples, had Nolan stayed in the AL.

    I think JV will play til 4o/41, and call it quits. That would be what I project his body will tell him. He throws the ball too hard to last much longer in my estimation, even though he takes real good care of himself. Relying on 96 in top of the zone, rather than having Greinke’s arsenal of changes of speed, JV may have to adapt to pitch into his 40’s. Where I think he’s made biggest strides is learning spin efficiencies through Rapsodo, so that may add to his longevity.

    One thing I’ve detected a little bit of is an austerity with JV. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I wouldn’t mind re-signing both Greinke and JV to a few more yrs right now. I’d lean to securing HOF for Greinke as being the cheaper option, but just spitballing Astros roster construction. Which I’m Always Game to talk about.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting takes from all of you.

    The big question with no easy answer is what would you pay Verlander and Greinke for that matter for an extension per year and how many years would you give them.
    Nolan left because he did not think he deserved a pay cut – his age be damned. Would JV or Zack do the same if treated the same?

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  6. I’m in an odd mood tonight. I had to help my 86 year old father-in-law out with some appointments and testing today and that left me a few hours behind in my work. So I have retreated to our office and put on a music mix that has made me quite contemplative as I pound out a schedule I’m not sure we can do, but must at least try to meet…
    – You have Amy Winehouse singing a beautiful song about total heart break “Love is a Losing Game”. So much talent, but also so much addiction that she eventually couldn’t perform and finally could not live.
    – Then you have someone like Justin Heyward of the Moody Blues. He wrote Nights in White Satin when he was like 20 years old. He navigated his way through the 60’s and 70’s when so many fell by the way side brought down by drugs and here he is in his 70’s still touring and making music.
    – Terry Kath lead guitarist for early Chicago sings lead on Wishing You Were Here only because Peter Cetera (who wrote it) realizes it is too low for his voice. Kath sings a lovely lead, Cetera and three of the Beach Boys sing harmony and a hit is made. Three years later Kath is screwing around with a gun that is not supposed to be loaded and another star is gone….
    – Linda Ronstadt pops up and sings a gorgeous version of Smoky Robinson’s Ooh Baby Baby. Ronstadt flies through her career singing everything from rock to pop to country to standards to Broadway to a Spanish album in tribute to her father. And no she does not die, but her voice, a beautiful gift is taken from her as a progressive palsy slowly eats away at her.

    Life is so strange. I have trouble remembering some engineer I worked with for 6 months two years ago, but I remember every note and lyric to songs that are 40 years old….
    Oh wait here comes “Hello It’s Me” – great song Todd Rundgren….

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    • I woke up with “Always Something There to Remind me”, Dionne Warwick 1973 version, of course. It was just playing away in my head and then I go and read this blog and your music is here.
      You are not the only one feeling strange.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dionne was the perfect fit for so many of the Burt Bacharach/ Hal David tunes. I really did like the version of that song that Naked Eyes did in the 80’s. Great song. I always thought Petulia Clark would have done terrific with Bacharach and David songs. Though she had her own main song writer Tony Hatch (Downtown, I Know a Place, Sign of the Times).
        Ah music is a good soother when everything is hitting the fan.

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    • I always think, in my mind, of “Good Morning, Starshine”, each morning to wake myself up and become alert at 4am while I drive in to work. If I get down, I think of “Happy Together” to lift myself up.

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      • I also like the Rascals “It’s a Beautiful Morning” to start the day – though obviously you are taking off in the Starshine Sarge.
        I remember seeing the Turtles talking about “Happy Together”. It came in as a demo tape that had been played so many times it was in terrible shape. They made fun of what bad shape it was in – but it was their only number one hit.

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  7. And some more musical thoughts….
    – I am listening to a bit of an oddity that means a lot to me. There is this live Harry Chapin album called “Legends of the Lost and Found”. Some of it was recorded at a concert at the University of Houston in 1979 and I was at that concert. I remember it well as Chapin had been testifying before congress that day on world hunger and was 2+ hours late for the concert. I know I was at this concert because of something that happened that was caught live. Chapin is introducing a song “The Day They Closed the Factory Down” (which the band absolutely nailed this evening) and he says “This is a song about a One Horse town when the One Horse ups and leaves”. And somebody in the audience yells out “Waco”….. It was awfully funny and clever.
    Two years later 38 year old Chapin is killed in a traffic accident in his native NY….
    – Paul Davis shows up a couple times in my “mix” with “Go Crazy” and “Cool Night” which both remind me of the time I was dating my wife (my wife of 40 years as of a couple weeks ago). Davis specialized in lovely ballads and after pop music he had success in country music. He almost died at 38 years old (like Chapin) when he was shot in a failed robbery attempt. He left us too soon anyway with a heart attack at 60 – but his lovely melodies stick with me until today.
    – Glen Campbell pops up with both “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston”. Just loved that guy and what he could do with a Jimmy Webb composition. Campbell kept playing when he was deep into Alzheimer’s – when he could still remember his songs better than the people around him. And then it took him down entirely.

    Why am I feeling so weird today? I hope y’all don’t mind me sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree with you on the “value of music”. Many times I find a song on YouTube and it’ll lead to many other song s that I haven’t heard in a month of Sundays. I’ve been digitizing my CD collection, along with other songs that I’ve rediscovered on the internet. My next project is doing the same to my LP collection of about 100 or so albums. I could listen for weeks and and never hear the same song twice. And Chapin, Glen Campbell, Todd Rundgren, Moody Blues, Chicago, and a lot of Motown are on my list as they are yours. Back in the 90’s I was out in Mission Viejo, CA and attended a Concert in the Park with “The Rare Earth Allstars” which included the drummer from Rare Earth, lead guitar from Iron Butterfly, Key boardist from Sugarloaf, and the bass guitar from Cannibal and the Head Hunters. Considering that there were only about 150 people there we sat right in front of the stage on the lawn and had a super time. Ah, the memories of days of concerts gone by.

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      • We saw Chicago here in Sugar Land a couple years ago – of course it is only like three of the originals left, but they put on a heck of a show – had some terrific replacements for musicians and vocalists and they still have Lamm, Pankow and Loughnane.

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  8. I should be listening to music, but politics is driving me nuts. Sometimes it’s best to walk away, and take a break. /Ahhhh!
    Good suggestion, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My wife and I are sitting out the porch last evening, watching all the activities happening around us. Our daughter in law screams up in the Gator and gets out holding the smallest deer I have ever seen. She was going thru a field of grass and a doe got up and ran off from in front of her and while she watched the doe, she ran over this tiny baby.
    She picked it up and checked it out and saw that it was hurting in its hind legs a little
    She brought it home and took it inside her house and called her friends to ask advise. It was agreed that the only way this one-day-old wonder would ever make it was with its mother. Her best friend is an EMT and she came over to help and they took the baby deer back to where it was found. They left it there in the grass knowing that is the only place it’s mother would be able to find it.
    It was petted and held and loved by us. We will never know what will happen with it, but we did what we thought was best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m over here in concrete land with my condo in the sky – though we do go to Mary’s dad’s place and see the ducks and turtles out back.

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  10. Didn’t Nolan develop a pretty nasty curve ball which extended his years? Nothing like looking for the 98 mph heater and then lunging for the off speed pitch. I see he has other pitches in his repertoire but maybe work on a couple of good ones. Love to see him for a few more years but the cost might be prohibitive.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good question! I remember Nolan throwing that big, 12-6 hammer in the late 80’s. Unfortunately, I can’t find good information tracking his pitches before about 1988, but he his curveball averaged about 79mph for his (recorded) career while his fastball was routinely in the mid-90’s and obviously topped out around triple digits. That disparity reminds me most of Roy Oswalt who used to alternate between 94mph fastballs with an upper 70’s curve out of the same arm slot. As for Verlander, recall that he had a season or two where his velocity dipped and he had to reinvent himself a little as a pitcher. I think he could suffer a decrease in velocity the way Greinke has and still remain similarly effective, but it sure is fun watching him be a power pitcher out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think it was in Romancing the Stone where Michael Douglas in the jungle with Kathleen Turner finds out the Doobie Brothers broke up a few years after the event. So, I read where the Doobies have to postpone their 50th anniversary concert tour to 2021. I mean the guys are up there in age but “IT” is forcing them to wait a year to celebrate.
    We were talking about how we feel so bad for the May graduates. This is an exciting time and most of them are stuck in time.

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    • This is probably a divisive negotiation among the fans just as it is the owners/players. Personally, I read the reported proposal last night and thought it was pretty good for the players. I’m of the opinion economically it makes the most sense to cancel the season. I do wish I had a spare $500 million or so lying around as it wouldn’t surprise me to see a franchise or two become available at a lower asking price this winter than would have been thinkable in recent years.

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  12. In my ears these last couple of days: The Association, Cherish, 1966. Those were turbulent times too. But straight forward, sweet sounding lyrics still sold, at least for the time being.

    I worry for my homeland today. So much is out of kilter.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My wife bought an old turntable and picked up a few records and the Association was one of them. Cherish and Never My Love are all time favorites. Great vocals.
      Our homeland is struggling, it is the toughest time here since WWII probably. But this too shall pass.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Listen to “Everything That Touches You” great harmonies. And I’ll add one more good song, “Tighter and Tighter” by Alive and Kicking.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yes Z – another excellent Association song. Windy was a fun one and Along Comes Mary was a bit harder edge.
        Always liked Tighter and Tighter – I’m glad I grew up knowing so much good music – 60’s and 70’s especially

        Liked by 1 person

    • Cherish was “our song’ when we were dating. Went and saw the Association when they came to Houston.
      I would buy a lot of the singles that were favorites when we were dating and drop them thru the mail slot in my future-in-laws house for my girl to enjoy.
      Happy Together
      Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.
      Cherish
      Johnny Rivers
      Moodies
      If You could Read My Mind
      Wichita Lineman
      Good times, good music, good memories.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I’ve always liked Three Dog Night also. They were one of those groups that did not write any of their own songs, but really helped a lot of up and coming song writers – Laura Nyro, Hoyt Axton, Paul Williams, Randy Newman, Harry Nillson, Dave Loggins…..
    Eli’s Coming, Pieces of April, Easy to Be Hard, Out in the Country, and on and on

    Liked by 2 people

    • I bought the Golden Biscuits 8-track three times. First one melted in the heat on my dashboard, second one my toddler son ruined while pulling the tape out. I still have the third one along with two bank boxes of other tapes.

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  14. I grew up with mid to late 70’s music: Led Zeppelin, Bee Gees, The Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire, Aerosmith, Bob Seger, Billy Joel, Peter Frampton, Blondie, Blue Oyster Cult, Styx, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, The Police, Queen, Ted Nugent, Dan Fogelberg, Boz Scaggs, Jackson Browne, Rod Stewart, Journey, Lynyrd Sknyrd, REO Speedwagon, Little River Band, Genesis.

    Now I listen to Contemporary Christian music: Hillsong United, Jaci Velasquez, Crystal Lewis, Third Day, Delirious?, Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, David Crowder Band, Rachael Lampa, Rebecca St. James, Keith Green, Rich Mullins, Jars of Clay, Point of Grace, Fernando Ortega.

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    • I guess I never matured because I still listen to everyone you made in your first list above plus more Astro Nut. I really don’t listen to much Christian music maybe because I sing in a choir (or sang in one until we were put on virus hiatus). Big news this week in Christian music when the lead singer for Hawk Nelson said he is now a non-believer. Funny, the press does not cover all the secular bands who have believers… but just let one cross over…

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