Game 69: Another look at Verlander’s pitching

No, Justin Verlander’s fastball doesn’t look like it’s there yet.

Yes, his command resembles his younger form, even during part of the winning streak he had going.

And yes, 3.72 is a high ERA for him.

But here’s the thing: Even when he works through things, Justin Verlander is still a darn good pitcher.

How good? Well, if you go by Fangraphs’ calculations, he entered Tuesday night with the seventh-highest Wins Above Replacement among Major League pitchers. At 3.0 WAR, he had the same number as Yu Darvish, slightly above Clay Buchholz (2.9), and just barely under teammates Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer (3.1).

And if you go by Fielding Independent Pitching, he entered Tuesday tied for fifth in the Majors, trailing Sanchez but better than Scherzer, Darvish, Chris Sale and others.

Call it mediocrity if you want, but Verlander’s mediocrity is another pitcher’s greatness. He looked fairly bad in back-to-back losses in May, and the offensive support he received means he probably cost them those games. But he had two losses in April in which the Tigers were shut out.

“It’s been a battle so far,” Verlander said. “Obviously, you have that stretch of three or four starts where it was pretty frustrating. You know, I guess I’m always trying to get better, and I feel like I’ve made adjustments to get to that point.

“I feel like I’ve been getting better, better, and better. That’s not necessarily going to work towards a perfect game, but you’re not going to get better every time. There’s ups and downs, peaks and valleys, tonight was just one of those nights where two long balls hurt me. You know who knows what happens if I’m able to execute those pitches a little bit better. I’m not saying that I regressed, it’s just one of those games. This is Major League Baseball, you’re not going to be perfect every time.”

His fastball command has been a roller coaster. When he was struggling a month ago he went from a low of barely 50 percent strikes with his fastball up to 60 percent. When he seemed like he was right again, that percentage climbed to 70 percent.

On Tuesday, he threw 24 of his 39 fastballs for strikes, or about 61.5 percent, according to MLB.com Gameday and brooksbaseball.net.

He paid for one bad fastball with Adam Jones’ three-run homer. He paid for it more with four walks, three of them to Nick Markakis. He also paid for it in a pitch count that went from a 15-pitch first inning to a 15-pitch second, then a 30-pitch third.

“The one inning, it almost got up to the point where I looked up and I said, ‘Oh, this is going to be a tough one for the manager,'” Jim Leyland said. “Because he’s possibly got 60 pitches after three innings. As a manager, that’s not a good feeling.”

The mantra for Leyland was fastball command. As many different pitches as Verlander can throw in any count, he still has to command the basic fastball.

“His repertoire is what it is, but normally a successful evening for your pitching starts with commanding your fastball,” Leyland said. “When you don’t have that, that takes away some other stuff, because you’re not getting other stuff behind in the count. There’s really not a sophisticated answer. He just didn’t command the fastball.”

He hit 97-98 mph on his fastball several times, but it was early. He didn’t build with velocity so much as he spiked it, and that’s usually not a good sign with him.

Was he getting squeezed on the strike zone? It looked like it at times, and Verlander had to keep his composure. Still, those aren’t using downfalls for him.

“I felt I threw about 10 to 15 pitches tonight that were pretty doggone close to being perfect, just off,” Verlander said. “I think that goes to show you how fine of a line it is at this level between having a good start and not.”

16 Comments

With all the marquee players we have it sounds a bit ludicrous but we need more offense.
There are ways to get some. Pena with more playing time should provide some over Alex.
2E with more playing time should provide some thunder and thump that andy dirks is not doing.
Victor has to hit. There is not alternative (other than Jordan Lennerton) to come up with a DH.
The team has been hurt by the lack of power from #3 & #4. You could add #2 in there too. But these guys will hit again. I wish they were more intimidating right now though. They should be scaring pitchers silly and I don’t think we’re seeing that phenomena.
It would be really nice to see Ricky P have another outstanding start. More so for him but for us too. He seems like he is a really good kid. Hard to imagine (given his experience) but he is the 3rd youngest guy on the team.

Not to mention the game thrown away by Valverde. after he left the game winning.
Oddly, at other blogs , rival teams, they talk about a Verlander zone. They blame Ump for opening the zone for him. One way or another, he needs to find a better way to deal with umps.
The misplay at second probably took him out of the game. That was unusual for him.

To me this has always been the thing that bugs me the most about Justin……he never can just say he stunk! It’s never him. Guess what Justin you were great over the last few years…..not so much this year, this year pretty average.

Yuck, bad game last night for many, but terrific night last night for the bull pen – they kept us in it, we just could not take advantage of any of our baserunners. Guess I’ll be watching gameday today for the afternoon game

He did get squeezed and I think that probably did get in his head. The umpire was not consist with his zone for both pitchers. His command got worse after several close ones did not go his way.

Now just bounce back and win the series. Any surprises in our starting line up today?? It is not a holiday but could it be a good day for a Holaday??? We will have Porcello on the pitcher line and that has been working well lately. Fifth season in our rotation go get them Vet.

2E could handle a DH role if necessary.

Between Mike Winter behind the plate and Lance Diaz at secondbase, that was an extremely poor performance by the umpires. That’s what I took away from last night’s game. The pitchers can’t hit the corners and the hitters can’t work their ABs when nobody has a clue where the strike zone is. The third team had a bad night.

For what it’s worth, I checked with the umpires after the game about the call/non-call in the seventh inning last night. Tim Timmons, the 3B ump, told me Laz Diaz was pointing to him to say it was his call, not pointing to signal an out. The location of the play made it a call either one could make.

I thought the same although the Baltimore announcers seemed confused by the point. Pena should have been called out either on the tag or going out of the baseline by either ump. Diaz also missed two tag plays at secondbase.

They were bad for sure. Horrible really. But JV has to be careful he doesn’t become the Sydney Crosby of baseball. Nobody likes a whiner.

I think the recent trend of Verlander going to the plate umpire between innings and saying he wasn’t trying to show them up strongly suggests he’s aware of the reputation he’s building. I’m not sure how much he can counter it.

just shut up, justin! And Miggy probably too (in reference to him asking the 1st base umpire to verify checked swings)!

cabby and princes foul balls they popped up last night with a man on 3rd and 1st – with 1 out – holy moly that was it boy. Makes me sick when i have to watch Lebron James to see a superstar be a clutch.

{omit that last “a”}

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