- Astros right-hander Justin Verlander will miss the rest of the 2020 season with an elbow injury
- Houston had the third-best odds to win the World Series (+800) to open the season
- Verlander pitched six innings and got the victory in Houston’s season opener on Friday
The Houston Astros were the only team in the entire American League to get off to a perfect 2-0 start to the season. On Sunday, however, the team was dealt the most devastating loss any team in the big leagues has faced so far in 2020.
That’s because ace Justin Verlander will reportedly miss the remainder of the season due to an elbow injury. The right-hander won his lone start of the season on Friday when he pitched six innings of two-run ball in an 8-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle broke the news on Sunday afternoon:
Astros ace and reigning American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander is out for the remainder of the season with an elbow injury, two people with knowledge of the situation tell the Chronicle – https://t.co/oqbLvn4mLi
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) July 26, 2020
Huge Loss for Astros
The team has yet to announce the news, and the Chronicle hasn’t gone into any detail about the extent of the injury. Elbow issues can often lead to pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery, which would be absolutely brutal news for Verlander, who turned 37 earlier this year. If the injury does require Tommy John, Verlander likely wouldn’t be healthy enough to return to the mound until the 2022 season.
Of course, it’s still too early for that kind of speculation, but the fact that he will definitely not pitch again this season certainly means it’s no minor issue.
Verlander won the American League Cy Young award last season when he went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA. He was one of just two pitchers in the majors to record at least 300 strikeouts, and he led the Astros to the World Series for the second time in three years. Houston wound up falling in seven games at the hands of the Washington Nationals last fall.
Houston’s Weakened Rotation
Verlander’s absence combined with Gerrit Cole’s departure over the winter leaves the Astros’ rotation looking a lot more vulnerable than it was at this time a year ago. Houston has lost two of the five best pitchers in all of baseball in the span of just a few months.
Without Verlander, Houston will have to rely more heavily on Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. to carry the rotation. The team is also currently without right-hander Jose Urquidy, who is rehabbing after missing Summer Camp for undisclosed reasons. The rest of the rotation is comprised of unproven commodities like Josh James, Austin Pruitt, and Framber Valdez.
The Astros have a highly-rated right-handed pitching prospect in Forrest Whitley, but he has yet to pitch in the big leagues. Whitley was likely to make his major league debut at some point this season, though, and Verlander’s unexpected departure could mean a promotion sooner than later for the former first-round draft pick.
World Series Odds Likely Impacted
This will also clearly have a negative impact on Houston’s World Series aspirations. The Astros opened the year around +800 at most MLB betting sites to win the 2020 World Series, which gave them the third-best odds in the league behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. Sunday’s defeat at the hands of the Seattle Mariners dropped Houston to 2-1 on the young season.
Betting sites have yet to react to the information at the time of this writing, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Astros’ futures odds take a tumble. It’s still incredibly likely that Houston winds up in the playoffs thanks to a top-tier offense and an expanded playoff field, but getting out of the American League will be an incredibly difficult task without Verlander headlining the rotation.
Verlander signed a two-year extension worth $66 million prior to last season that will keep him under contract with the Astros through 2021.