5) Return from Tommy John
The Astros inked Verlander to a two-year, $66 million extension following the 2019 season. He threw all of six innings during the contract.
An elbow injury cut his 2020 season short before Tommy John kept him out of the 2021 season. When Verlander returned to the Astros in 2022, questions loomed about who he would be. Could a 39-year-old return from the infamous procedure? Would he still be Houston's ace, or would he be more of a 3/4 and a veteran voice to mentor the younger arms?
While he did take the loss in his season debut, Verlander's effort went a long way to alleviating concerns. Verlander spanned 80 pitches across five innings, yielding only three hits, one run and striking out seven. The offense was shut-out, but Verlander was hardly to blame for the loss.
One week later, he went eight scoreless and the race to the Cy Young was on.
Had JV gotten beat around in his first start, who knows how things snowball from there? Instead, he showed not only was he physically capable of performing again, but he could perform at an ace-caliber level again. Crisis averted. Houston went on to have one of the best pitching staffs ever assembled, something that would not have been possible without peak Verlander.