Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers flirted with a no-hitter again on Tuesday night. With one under his belt this season, he seems capable of shutting down an offense every time out as he holds hitters to a .185 opposition batting average. This is what his pitch frequency chart looked like from 2008-2010:
There's nothing special there. Compare that to 2011.
Look right in the middle, and you'll see the separation. A thin line separates the density of Verlander's pitches, left and right. These should be called Septum Charts. They seem to appear when pitchers are having particularly good seasons, and is a sign of greatness. This is the kind of heat map Mariano Rivera produces over multiple seasons.
What changed? Verlander throws his four pitches more consistently this season.
The big red blog is his fastball, with the change up underneath and toward the right-handed batter in green. Note that there is cross over between those two pitches. The slider is the fuzzy green area in the middle of the grid, with the curve ball below the X axis in blue.
The curve ball and slider are much better defined, and the nice circular spots shows Justin throws them with consistent spin. The fastball and changeup, however, are what really stand out for me. Justin throws the two pitches with a nine MPH difference in velocity, but his change up is so good there is no separation with the spin of the fastball. Look again at the three previous seasons. About half his changes exhibit a different spin than his fastballs. In 2011, there is almost no difference. The arm action is the same, the spin is very much the same, but the change comes in at 86 MPH instead of 95, and batters make poor contact.
Justin misses the middle of the plate, shows great control with four pitches, and made his change up look even more like his fastball. It's no suprise he took his pitching to the next level.