It was early May 2018 and Alex Bregman, the Houston Astros’ star third baseman, had only one home run on the season. His teammate Justin Verlander, one of the best pitchers of this generation, noticed Bregman’s low power and hints of fatigue, and asked how many hours Bregman had slept the night before.
Six, Bregman answered. And his normal amount? Six, as well.
The responses bewildered Verlander. He promptly told Bregman, 25, that he slept at least 10 hours a night and said Bregman should start getting more hours himself.
“I felt like that’s overdoing it,” Bregman said. “You shouldn’t sleep that much.
“Then I started sleeping that much and, next thing you know, I hit 30 homers after that.”
If Verlander doesn’t throw another pitch, he has a strong case for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame: He is an eight-time All-Star, won the 2011 American League M.V.P. and Cy Young Awards, and helped the Astros to the 2017 World Series title.
Yet at 36, Verlander is still pumping fastballs in the mid-90s and relishing a late-career resurgence with the Astros. He has a sterling 2.98 E.R.A. and has allowed the fewest walks and hits per inning (0.813 WHIP) among major league starting pitchers for the second straight season. On Tuesday in Cleveland, he will take the mound as the A.L.’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game.
One of the secrets to Verlander’s dominance at this age: a lot of sleep. He regularly gets nearly 50 percent more than the average American’s 6.8 hours (per a 2013 Gallup poll), and has added one more unofficial title to his résumé: Astros’ sleep consultant.
“That’s Verlander: the Tom Brady of baseball,” said Bregman, comparing his teammate to the New England Patriots quarterback who, with plenty of sleep and an eccentric diet and fitness routine, won his sixth Super Bowl title last season at 41.
Verlander aims for 10 hours a night. “And if I need more, I’m not afraid to just sleep more,” he said. Sometimes eight or nine hours leaves him refreshed. Other times he gets 11 or even 12.
To help him doze longer, Verlander uses blockout blinds. When there aren’t any in his hotel room, he uses pillows to pin the shades shut. He also puts