Picking apart Verlander’s outing and his season

The good news for the Tigers fans: They know Justin Verlander’s upper-90s fastball is still there.

The bad news? They have no idea where it’s going. Neither, for that matter, did Verlander.

His fastball had been averaging just over 92 mph, according to STATS, and had topped out at 98 a couple starts ago. On Thursday, his fastball averaged 96, and at least according to brooksbaseball.net, hit 100 for the first time this season. The pitch in question registered at 99 on MLB.com Gameday as well as on the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast, so there’s some question about that.

He threw 20 pitches at 95 or harder, 17 of them in that disastrous third inning alone. But he wasn’t locating many of them.

A look at the pitch-by-pitch data on Gameday shows that of those 17 95+ mph fastballs, seven were balls, six were fouled off, two were swings and misses (including that Lance Berkman strikeout on a pitch to the backstop), and one was a called first-pitch strike. The last was the Geovany Soto home run.

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A look at the line graph on pitch velocities from brooksbaseball shows just how much Verlander cranked up his fastball and shrugged off his offspeed as that third inning unfolded. He pretty much ditched the curveball in that last inning in favor of fastballs and sliders, with the occasional changeup.

To compare a 30-year-old Verlander to the kid who broke into the league in 2006 might be a little unfair. Just comparing Verlander this year to what he did the past couple seasons, though, reveals some differences, not just from velocity.

The fastball velocity has been well-documented. More subtle is that he actually has been using his fastball slightly more than last year — 58 percent of his pitches this season, according to STATS, compared with 56% last year and 57% in 2011. His strike percentage on his fastball is slightly down, from 68% to 67%, but still strong.

The results from hitters are where the difference shows. Hitters are swinging and missing at a 17.5% rate on his fastballs, down from last year but about the same as 2011. Yet he’s getting hitters to chase his fastball out of the strike zone at a much higher rate than last year, and miss at a higher rate. When they swing at a fastball in the strike zone, however, their miss rate of 15.5% is down from 19.8% last year. It’s more on part with 2011.

When hitters put Verlander’s fastball in play, they’re batting .313, compared with a .283 mark last year and .234 in 2011.

So what’s the issue? Verlander told reporters last night he had been tinkering a bit too much in search of his velocity. However, he said a day earlier that the work he did was “fine-tuning” and nothing major, work mainly meant to get his body in sync.

“I’ve been spoiled the last couple of years by being in pretty good sync with my delivery,” Verlander said afterwards.

While the velocity drop raised concern that he wasn’t healthy, the abundance of sliders he threw Thursday and in his starts leading up to that — a pitch that puts stress on the elbow — would seemingly counter any argument about an injury.

Remember, health was a question being raised in 2008, including Jack Morris when he saw Verlander pitch in Minnesota early that year. Verlander made it through the season, then began the climb to the league’s elite the next year. So history shows it’s worth being careful with questions about Verlander’s arm.

15 Comments

Well interesting. Although I’ve got to say I’m a bit concerned more so if he hurts, but the last few times through the rotation he’s like number 4 1/2 best. And he can’t be there. One more bad outing and you’ll find me in full panic mode.

He will bounce back next start, this happens from time to time. He has the talents and the work ethic so will do what is needed to reverse these bad starts. Hoping Porcello can keep it close tonight to get one.

Justin just needs to smooth out his delivery. He just threw his ninth start and it is very possible that after Anibal, Doug and Max get their ninth start in the next few days that Justin will be fourth in innings pitched on the team. That is good news for us in the long haul. We need him to reduce his workload some after six straight years of piling up the pitches. Amazing to think he walked two guys with the bases loaded. Then he amps up the fastball and gets knocked out. Remember the Angels last September??? It just never works for him. Justin the next time you are in a bases loaded situation make sure you use at least three different pitches on that next hitter. Do the same to the next hitter. Then see what the results are. Your strength is the fact that you have four well above average pitches. When you go dead red all red these guys eventually dial it up. It’s that simple. Go get’em Hoss. You can do it. Never a doubt here.

You got it. Instead of increasing both his velocity and tempo, he needs to take a step back. It’s kind of crazy that we’re telling an MVP/CY Young guy what to do, but we all see the same thing happen under these adverse circumstances.
To be fair, however, if NONE of his secondary pitches were working, he’s kind of screwed no matter what he does.

By the way, they’re having similar issue with Strasburg as he matures. 90% of this game is half mental.

I have to ask, why does Jim keep hitting Alex 6th and Kelly starting again? If he wants to start Kelly, hit HIM 6th. Or use another outfielder. Avila is a terrible hitter.

Avila should be 8 th. he’s not just horrible he’s aweful and in my opinion should be getting less playing time until he figures it out. Batting belw 200 is unacceptable and undeserving of paying time in the big leagues or at least as much as he’s getting. I don’t get it.

On the depth chart, Don Kelly #32, is listed as our starting CF. He went from third to first string in the blink of an eye. We may want to see Andy in center and Matt in left but it will not happen on the Skipper’s watch this year. Those three games against the Astros got DK on just enough of a roll that he can ride it out for a week or better.

Tonight’s lineup: Dirks 7, Hunter 9, Cabrera 5, Fielder 3, Martinez DH, Avila 2, Peralta 6, Kelly 8, Santiago 4. Porcello is pitching.
Avisail, off course, remains in the bench

And will rust there like Below, Santiago, Worth. To keep going a player released last year

The only reason that Avisail was brought up was so we could have three RHB in the OF against lefty starters. Otherwise, we were better off to have brought up another bullpen piece. Sad to say but true.

It is not only Verlander, they are all working too much. They are fooling no one.
Going with strike in the first pitch did not work the first time he tried. The batters were expecting it

It’s actually very simple…the lefties are in because righties bat .186 against this pitcher and lefties .316. The evidence tells us why Garcia and T-soap are not in the lineup.

Don Kelly: vs RHP:171/.277/.293/.569
2E:429/.429/1.000/ 1.429
Garcia, career:294 /.294/.294/.588
By the numbers, 2E deserves to be there

Any report on the callous in his fingers? Pitchers hands and fingers take abuse. Sore fingers until the “good” callous forms.

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