Justin Verlander Is Back and Still Dominating at 39

Kansas City Royals v Houston Astros
Kansas City Royals v Houston Astros / Logan Riely/GettyImages

Justin Verlander just closed out the first half of the 2022 MLB season in style. The 39-year-old Houston Astros ace earned his league-best 12th win while moving into 14th place on the all-time strikeouts list. After missing nearly two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery, Verlander is back doing Justin Verlander things.

So far this season, Verlander is 12-3 with a 1.89 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and 108 strikeouts in 109.1 innings over 17 starts. His fWAR of 2.9 ranks ninth among pitchers (not including Shohei Ohtani. Did I mention the future Hall of Famer is now 39?

While his strikeout rate is down to 25.6 percent (from 35.4 percent in 2019), his walk rate has dropped to 21.1 percent from 30.5. Verlander has dropped his HR/9 number to 0.91 from 1.45 in 2019. Additionally, opponents are only hitting .236 on balls in play, which is excellent.

The Astros signed Verlander to a one-year, $25 million deal for 2022 that carries a $25 million player option for 2023. It's safe to say Verlander will almost certainly be exercising that option and be on the mound next season. There's absolutely no reason for him to consider retiring.

Verlander could wind up in the top 12 in strikeouts all-time by the end of the season. it will take some doing but he could retire in the top 10 with another season or two if he stays healthy.

While Verlander's bout with Tommy John surgery was devastating and wiped out all by one start of the 2020 season and all of 2021, he looks fantastic right now. He looks like a guy who could pitch two to three more years. Or more. As long as the Astros are contending and he continues to get paid, why would he stop?

Going into this season coming off major surgery, Verlander had nothing left to prove. Along with Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, he was among the greatest pitchers of his generation. But what he's done so far has, if anything, enhanced that reputation. He's had an incredible career and the first half of this season has only added to that legacy.