Justin Verlander threw his second career no-hitter yesterday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays. He fanned 4 hitters and walked only 1 en route. Verlander has become a Top 10 pitcher in the game over the past 5 years, as he has posted 17 wins or more in 4 of the last 5 years. But at just 28 years old, Justin Verlander has an opportunity to put himself into a top tier, elite group of pitchers in the next decade.
With 2 no-hitters to his name, Verlander joins only Roy Halladay (age 33) and Mark Buehrle (age 32) as active pitchers with more than 1 no-hitter, and only 27 pitchers in Major League History have thrown more than 1 no-hitter in their careers. More impressively, only 5 pitchers have thrown 3 or more no-hitters (Nolan Ryan-7, Sandy Koufax-4, Jim Bunning-3, Larry Corcoran-3, Bob Feller-3, Cy Young-3).
Verlander can throw another no-hitter without a doubt. Verlander has all the tools to keep hits off the board for 9 innings. With his triple digit fastball and his wiffleball curve, Verlander has arguably the best stuff of any starter in the game right now. And he is only 28 years old. In addition, Verlander’s complete game numbers have increased significantly since he played his first whole season in 2006. He only threw one complete game in each of his first 3 seasons, but in the 2009 and 2010, he threw 4 and 3, respectively. He has already thrown 2 in the first month and a half of the 2011 season. With the ability to throw more innings and complete more games each year, Verlander will give himself opportunities to pursue another no-hitter. While Nolan Ryan’s 7 no-hitters may be slightly out of reach, Sandy Koufax’s 4 is reasonably attainable for Verlander.
Where would another no-hitter, or possibly more than that, put Verlander in terms of the all-time greats? One would have to put him near the top. Of those on the list of 3 or more no-hitters, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, and Cy Young are all Hall of Famers. The only player from that list who is not a Hall of Famer is Larry Corcoran, a pitcher in the 1880s who would have been elected had he played more than 8 years, only 5 of which he started more than 20 games. Corcoran won 43 games in 1880, earned 27 or more wins in 5 seasons of his short career, and posted a 1.95 ERA in 1880 and 1882. Therefore, the list is very exclusive, and Verlander is close to joining it. He often does not get the recognition he deserves by playing in Detroit, but as a pitcher that shows both incredible single game performances (2 no-hitters in just over 5 seasons) and consistency (17 or more wins in all but one of his 5 full seasons), Justin Verlander is an elite pitcher, and will continue to develop himself as a top pitcher in the game. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the 6th pitcher to throw 3 or more no-hitters.