List of pitchers throwing 99 mph at 39 years old has just one guy on it

October 26th, 2022

When the World Series begins, Justin Verlander will be 39 years and 250 days old. And when he takes the mound, you’re likely going to see some 97s, 98s, maybe even 99s on the radar gun.

It will be something baseball fans today have never seen on the postseason stage. Verlander’s velocity, at his age, is unprecedented for a starting pitcher in the pitch-tracking era — especially in the playoffs. Let alone for a pitcher in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.

• World Series Game 1, presented by Capital One: Friday, 8 p.m. ET/7 CT on FOX

Starting a World Series game at age 39 is rare enough. Only 16 pitchers have done it. Starting a World Series game at age 39 and throwing in the upper 90s is another thing entirely.

But Verlander is going to do it. His average fastball velocity in the playoffs is 95.4 mph. Sixteen years after he was hitting triple digits as a 23-year-old in his first postseason in 2006, Verlander has topped out at 98.5 mph in 2022.

In the pitch-tracking era, which began in 2008, only eight starting pitchers have even thrown a pitch in the postseason at age 39 or older. By then, all of their fastballs were in decline. Except Verlander’s.

Avg. postseason fastball velocity for 39+ year old SP
Pitch-tracking era (since 2008)
Justin Verlander, 2022 Astros — 95.4 mph
Bartolo Colon, 2013 A’s — 91.2 mph
Adam Wainwright, 2020 Cardinals — 90.3 mph
Tim Hudson, 2014 Giants — 90.2 mph
Rich Hill, 2019 Dodgers — 89.7 mph
Adam Wainwright, 2021 Cardinals — 89.5 mph
Andy Pettitte, 2012 Yankees — 87.9 mph
R.A. Dickey, 2015 Blue Jays — 82.8 mph
Jamie Moyer, 2008 Phillies — 81.9 mph

And Verlander’s fastest fastball this postseason, at 98.5 mph? It was a strikeout. He rang up Matt Carpenter with the front-door heater in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees.

Justin Verlander strikes out Carpenter with 98 mph heat
Not only is that the fastest strikeout on record by a 39-year-old in the postseason, it’s the fastest strikeout by any pitcher in their late 30s. Past the age of 35, the only pitchers since 2008 to record a strikeout in the postseason on a fastball at 97 mph or harder are Verlander, Charlie Morton, Fernando Rodney, Billy Wagner and Ryan Madson. And Verlander’s 98.5-mph strikeout of Carpenter is the fastest of them all.

Fastest postseason K’s by pitchers over age 35
Pitch-tracking era (since 2008)
98.5 mph — Justin Verlander, 2022 ALCS Game 1
97.9 mph — Justin Verlander, 2022 ALCS Game 1
97.9 mph — Charlie Morton, 2021 NLDS Game 4
97.7 mph — Fernando Rodney, 2013 ALDS Game 4
97.7 mph — Fernando Rodney, 2013 ALDS Game 3

This postseason velo from Verlander comes following a regular season in which he averaged 95 mph on the dot, even faster than he was throwing before the Tommy John surgery — Verlander’s four-seamer averaged 94.6 mph in his previous full season, 2019.

He reached as high as 99.3 mph in a start against the Mariners on July 23, the fastest pitch he had thrown in a game since Aug. 4, 2017, and he recorded a strikeout at 99.2 mph in that same start, his highest-velocity K since another one at 99.2 on July 21, 2018.

Verlander’s clutch K’s in 7th
Verlander hitting 99-plus mph gives him the highest max velo of any over-35 starter, regular season or postseason, since pitch tracking began, by a full mph.

Highest max velo by SP over age 35
Regular or postseason, pitch-tracking era (since 2008)
Justin Verlander, 2022 Astros — 99.3 mph (age 39)
Charlie Morton, 2021 Braves — 98.3 mph (age 37)
Max Scherzer, 2021 Dodgers — 98.0 mph (age 37)
Bartolo Colon, 2011 Yankees — 97.7 mph (age 38)
Jose Contreras, 2009 Rockies — 97.2 mph (age 37)

All told, across the regular and postseason, Verlander has hit 98-plus mph 16 times in 2022. That’s the most times for any starting pitcher older than 35 in the pitch-tracking era. The only other starters to throw 98 mph or harder at that age are Morton (seven times in 2021), Scherzer (once in 2021) … and Verlander himself (four times in 2019, when he was 36).
In Houston’s World Series starting rotation, Verlander is the oldest member by a decade. And he’s still their hardest thrower.

The Astros’ first two playoff opponents both had flamethrowing aces, Luis Castillo with the Mariners and Verlander’s old teammate Gerrit Cole with the Yankees. One more awaits them in the Fall Classic in Zack Wheeler. When Verlander dials it up in a big spot, his old-school, age-defying power fastball can still go toe to toe with any of them.