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.