WHAT?S UP WITH JUSTIN VERLANDER? SLUMPING TIGER FACES TAMPA BAY SATURDAY NIGHT

WHAT’S UP WITH JUSTIN VERLANDER?

SLUMPING TIGER FACES TAMPA BAY SATURDAY NIGHT

In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Justin Verlander of the Detroit was about as dominant on the mound as could be imagined in the modern era of American League baseball. He posted an ERA of 2.40 in 2011, and one of 2.64 in 2012. In the league where designated hitters bat!

He started out 2013 in the same kind of form, enjoying at 1.55 ERA in early May after shutting down the Houston Astros. Since then…in NINE starts…his ERA is a seemingly impossible 6.04. He was only spotless against the weak offense of Kansas City in that sampling. Opponents are getting to three runs on a regular basis…more if he’s not throwing his best stuff.

We’re now roughly at the midpoint of a normal baseball season, as Verlander has 16 total starts. He’ll typically have 33-34 in a full season. Look at how far below is recent norms Verlander is in a variety of statistics…

ERA’S SINCE 2009

3.45, 3.37, 2.40, 2.64, and now 3.90

WHIP’S SINCE 2009

1.18, 1.16, 0.92, 1.06….and now 1.38

INNINGS PER START SINCE 2009

6.86, 6.51, 7.38, 7.22…and now 5.88 (!!)

He’s gone from a Cy Young and MVP candidate to a rather pedestrian spot holder with a decent ERA but a disappointing WHIP and IP/start showing in terms of the full 2013 season. His last nine starts have been racked by inconsistency. He still has flashes of brilliance. Detroit needs him to be Superman all the time given their poor bullpen. He’s dressed as Clark Kent too often.

The WHIP is particularly disturbing (walks and hits per inning). He’s putting way too many runners on base…then bearing down in a way that’s help shield his ERA from further damage. That approach has inflated early pitch counts…which is why he’s now lasting a shade less than six innings rather than a shade more than seven innings. 

What’s going on?

*Verlander has run into some very good offenses during this recent stretch. Three of those nine recent starts in the poor sampling came against the Cleveland Indians…who purchased an offense in the offseason. Verlander also faced Baltimore twice, Boston once, and had an appearance down in the hitting paradise of Arlington. He’s not up to past form…this is exacerbating the issue.

*Reports are that he’s either lost some velocity, or is pacing himself more to save his best stuff for later innings. This is blowing up on him because he’s not around for later innings! If you don’t bring peak intensity vs. the AL’s best offenses, they’ll make you pay for it.

*His K-Rate is actually up a bit through nine innings this year. Some would interpret that as a positive sign. But, we’ve seen in the past that an increase like that means hitters are less afraid of him. They’re swinging more aggressively….and doing more damage when they connect. It was a sign that Chien-Ming Wang had lost his stuff a few years ago when his K-Rates started going up. Hitters were swinging freely without fear. Verlander is no longer scaring people to the degree he used to.

He’ll have another tough test Saturday Night at Tampa Bay. That ballpark does help strikeout pitchers though, which will give him a chance to get settled. JIM HURLEY may have an opinion in that game, and at least will be watching Verlander very closely for guidance on future picks.

Detroit/Tampa Bay is one of many marquee matchups on the Saturday card.

AFTERNOON STARTS

Toronto at Boston (we previewed this series Thursday in the NOTEBOOK)

St. Louis at Oakland (we previewed this series Friday in the NOTEBOOK)

San Francisco at Colorado

FOX REGIONAL PRIME TIME HIGHLIGHTS

Cincinnati at Texas

NY Yankees at Baltimore

Detroit at Tampa Bay

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Back with you Sunday for more NOTEBOOK coverage. Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY so you know what’s REALLY happening in the world of sports. And link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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