Since arriving in Houston last summer, Justin Verlander has been a pitcher reborn.
In five starts with the Astros last season, he would finish with a 1.06 ERA, 2.66 FIP and 3.08 DRA. Across 36.2 postseason innings, Verlander put up a 2.21 ERA while striking out 38 and walking only eight. Opponents hit .177/.235/.298 against him as the Astros won their first World Series title.
This season, Verlander is pitching at a Cy Young-caliber level. He’s got a 2.19 ERA, 2.82 FIP and 2.19 DRA with a career-best strikeout (33.7 percent) and walk rate (4.6 percent).
We haven’t seen him pitch like this since back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012. We’re talking about a time when he won the Cy Young and MVP in the same season! Then, followed that campaign up with a second-place finish in Cy Young voting. He’s been that good this season… at age 35. But it wasn’t a change of scenery that seems to have saved the hurler’s career.
It was his wife Kate Upton.
“She was instrumental in me not … like, jumping off a bridge,” he said to Bleacher Report. “I was depressed and kind of just upset at the world and trying to hide my own s—. … I really thought it was the end.”
At this point, he and Upton had been together for two years. She understood the pressure, the criticism, and the physical toll each could take.
“She obviously had dealt with more than me in her life,” Verlander continues. “I mean, being a woman? Being in that industry? Being that famous? That was a level I hadn’t dealt with.”
Eventually, it would become clear to him that help was necessary.
“I don’t like to talk to people about being hurt. As athletes, you’re not supposed to. It’s an excuse. … But she was someone I could talk to. I mean, basically a therapist.”
After seeing a physical therapist, Verlander got his body back on track. He wasn’t as worn out anymore. Then he got to pitching differently, and that’s where we are today. With the Astros in first place and looking to defend their World Series title…
While Verlander pitches like the Cy Young we remember him as.