Where Justin Verlander goes from here
Justin Verlander has adjusted his foot placement to get his delivery more in line with the plate. He has adjusted his delivery to his arm more in front and at the angle he wants. On Tuesday, as he tried to rack up quick outs that would lengthen his outing after a career-high 44-pitch inning to start out, he found himself slowing down his delivery as he tried to pitch to contact. In the process, he felt like he found his mechanics where he wanted him.
Pitching at too quick of a pace, and getting out of sorts mechanically as a result, was a rookie problem for him. It’s not normally a 30-year-old pitcher’s problem.
“When I started slowing down a little bit and just trying to pitch to contact and lower my pitch count — and [pitching coach Jeff Jones] said he saw it and I felt it — there were times when it felt great,” Verlander said. “And I told him there’s a series of pitches where it’s like, ‘That’s it.’ And then there’d be one or two where I feel like my arm’s a little late or it’s dragging behind.”
That seems to be the end result with all of the adjustments. And now, here we are.
If you thought Justin Verlander was a saga when he was at the top of his game, the sequel is turning out to be a drama every five days. Where this season-long saga goes from here is anyone’s guess.
Jim Leyland has talked about the standards being placed too high on Verlander based on his past two seasons. On Monday, he talked about Verlander needing to get his swagger back and simplify things. After watching what happened Tuesday, he wasn’t offering up much of any dissecting.
“I just can’t sit here and come up with any philosophical reason for [why] Justin just wasn’t very good tonight,” Leyland said. “I don’t know what else to tell you. I wish I did. I wish I had some magical answer for you but I don’t.”
I wrote it in the game story last night, and the statistics bear out that this was a different kind of outings than Verlander’s other losses this year. Opponents are hitting just .202 against him in his victories this year, .310 in his defeats, and .273 in no-decisions. He gave up four hits over five innings Tuesday, and three of them drove in runs. Three of those runs reached base without a base hit — two on walks, and then the go-ahead tally in the fifth on Omar Infante’s error before Verlander lost a changeup over the plate and paid for it.
His velocity was still strong, averaging just under 95 mph. His command wasn’t good, but his ball-strike ratio didn’t show it. He hit the 70-percent strike rate with his fastball that has been a trait of his better outings, according to brooksbaseball.net, and he threw strikes with seven of his 11 curveballs (though he didn’t get to throwing his curve until after the opening inning). However, 20 of those strikes were foul balls, including 13 in that 44-pitch opening inning. He still induced 15 swings and misses, but just three strikeouts.
“You try to get him [to] get the ball down with his fastball and throw the ball over the plate,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We were really patient and made him work. That kind of gets you on the run a little bit.”
His curveball, which had been a life preserver for him while he was working through his fastball issues the past few weeks, hasn’t been as sharp the last few outings.
In short, it wasn’t nearly as bad of an outing as several others he has had this year, but it wasn’t good, either.