MLB: The 25 most valuable pitchers of 2019

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 29: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets in action against the Chicago Cubs during a game at Citi Field on August 29, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 29: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets in action against the Chicago Cubs during a game at Citi Field on August 29, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

2. Justin Verlander, Houston Astros, $16.197 million value; $28 million salary

Somebody should do a study of the value of post-35-year-old starters. Verlander’s continuing exceptional performance has to make him the exception to the rule.

During his age 36 season in 2019, Verlander posted a league-leading 21 victories on a league-best 223 innings, starting a league-best 34 games. Those numbers were founded on a league-best .803 WHIP and a league-best 5.5 hits per nine innings.

Verlander, in other words, pitched like he’s still in his prime. Perhaps he is.

Those 223 innings valued at $5.711 million and his 300 strikeouts added $3.886 million. His data points added up to a 179 ERA+, second only to his teammate Gerrit Cole, and merited another $6.6 million based on group performance.

The Astros have Verlander under contract for two more seasons at $33 million. He’ll be 39 by the time that contract expires, the natural assumption being that the pitcher will enter the decline phase any moment now.

That, after all, is what has happened to some excellent post-35 age pitchers.

The only problem is that Verlander isn’t showing any signs of decline yet. His workload has actually increased in each of the past three seasons, as have his win and strikeout totals and his ERA+.