The New York Mets' biggest offseason acquisition is far from young. One week after reporting to spring training in Port St. Lucie, Florida, starter Justin Verlander will turn 40 years old. It is rare for anyone to play this late into their life, but it's even rarer to play at such a high level. Last season, only six players were able to play the game at the age of 40,
Entering his 18th season, Verlander has done just about everything but make the Hall of Fame, an achievement that is impossible until he retires. The 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher has won an MVP and three Cy Young awards, and he has made nine All-Star appearances.
With Cooperstown in his sights, Verlander already matches up with some of the greatest to take the mound, but he still has a unique chance to add to his resume? this season.
Justin Verlander's Unfinished Business
Compared to others, Verlander became just the 11th pitcher to ever claim three Cy Young awards, an award given to the best pitcher in their respective league for the season. Longtime Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens currently owns the record for the most Cy Young awards with seven, but Verlander still is in elite company. All other players who are retired and own exactly three of the awards are Hall of Famers (Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax). Additionally, Verlander's recent winning of the award in 2022 made him the fourth oldest pitcher to ever claim the honor.
At Verlander's peak, he further separated himself from the pack. In 2011, he became the 42nd pitcher in history to win the triple crown. To do so, a pitcher must lead the league in wins, strikeouts and earned run average (ERA). That season, Verlander went 24-5 in his starts, pitching down to a 2.4 ERA while striking out 250 batters.
For his efforts, Verlander won the MVP in 2011. It was a rarity: Only 25 pitchers have ever won the MVP award. When Shohei Ohtani captured the award in 2021, he became the first pitcher to do so since Clayton Kershaw in 2014. By winning both MVP and the Cy Young, Verlander joined a notable group, as he is one of only 10 pitchers to ever win both awards in the same season.
Verlander's magical 2011 season was far from a solo accomplishment. Led by Verlander, the Tigers were able to get to the American League Championship Series before bowing out to the Texas Rangers in six games. As Verlander came back with another strong 2012 campaign, Detroit again returned to the ALCS, winning in a sweep over the Yankees before losing in four games against the Giants in the World Series. Though Verlander was not responsible for every win on that 162-game schedule, the Tigers have failed to reach even 80 wins since Verlander was traded in August 2017. They have consistently struggled without an ace at the head of the rotation.
A wizard of his aging body, Verlander has posted career-low ERAs in four of his last five seasons. Though he only had five starts in 2017, Verlander hit a career-low 1.06 ERA and accomplished a sub-2.00 ERA season in 2022, when he finished with a 1.75 ERA. Since 2000, only 10 other pitchers have had a season with an ERA under 2.00.
The Virginia native has also amassed some accomplishments for longevity. Verlander is currently No. 116 on the leaderboard for innings pitched in MLB history. With another injury-free, sharp season, Verlander could easily vault into the top 100 in this category.
In 2019, at the age of 37, Verlander hit another big milestone when he struck out Kole Calhoun of the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the strikeout, Verlander became only the 18th pitcher in the modern era to earn 3,000 career strikeouts. Getting Calhoun out swinging also put Verlander at 300 strikeouts for the season. Of the thousands of pitchers in the game who have amassed even more seasons, Verlander's 2019 season was only the 69th occurrence in which a pitcher reached 300 strikeouts in a season.
After a lockout-delayed spring training in 2022, baseball will be back on schedule as pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Now with the Mets, Verlander looks to capture a third World Series title and build on his strong resume?. If the Mets earn a title, Verlander will more than likely have a lot to do with it -- proving that for a small minority of athletes, age is just a number.
MORE: How Bernie Madoff's Ponzi Scheme Created Bobby Bonilla's Infamous Contract
Enjoy all things sports?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.