Justin Verlander is 40 and 100+ years of baseball show he can remain effective
By Tim Boyle
40 isn’t the new 30 but it’s hardly a death sentence for the career of MLB pitchers. The New York Mets signed Justin Verlander this offseason after he captured a Cy Young with the Houston Astros in 2022. He also took home the award in 2019, his other most recent season taking the mound.
We’ve seen plenty of talented pitchers retire well before reaching this milestone birthday. Others have blown past it and even found success as they got deeper into their 40s.
Verlander’s contract will keep him in New York for at least two seasons. Will his age show or will he replicate what these over 40 and overs have done?
NY Mets pitcher Justin Verlander isn’t about to fall apart just because he ate birthday cake in February
Verlander celebrated his 40th back on February 20. Birthdays aren’t like milk. You don’t suddenly hit a certain date and see your abilities fall apart.
Yes, it’s old for an athlete. But for one of the greats of his generation playing even better in recent seasons than he did earlier on, any sense of dread over how many memories of the 1980s he has is reaching for reasons to be doubtful. Born in 1983, Verlander probably doesn’t remember the Mets winning the 1986 World Series but might faintly recall the debut of Seinfeld even if the jokes went over his head.
Pitchers have been excelling at 40 or over for more than 100 years. Way back in 1908, Cy Young had what MLB.com’s Sarah Langs considers the best 40+ season for a starting pitcher. Honorable mentions of hers include more recent feats by Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson.
The Johnson example does seem to be the most promising for the Mets because he doesn't have a connection to PEDs like Clemens. Another guy who was great early on but only got better with age, Johnson was the Cy Young runner-up in 2004 at age 40 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would later outstay his welcome in the MLB later on in the decade, but did remain effective at 41 in 2005 with the New York Yankees.
Who could forget Nolan Ryan either? When he led the league with a 2.76 ERA in 1987, he did it in his age 40 season. He’d have some other remarkable achievements even after turning 40.
Somewhat under the radar yet meaningful for Mets fans, Tom Seaver had a 16-11, 3.17 ERA in his age 40 season with the Chicago White Sox. There's no reason to believe Verlander can't deliver something even better than this.
Ageless baseball unicorns do exist. Verlander can be one of them. Until there is any sign of father time catching up, age ain’t nothing but a number.