Everyone knows about Justin Verlander's searing fastball, but he's much more than a hard-throwing, one-trick pitcher. The Tigers' ace is keeping pace with the likes of CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver. Dan Haren and Felix Hernandez in the AL Cy Young race by making full use of his four-pitch mix.
Yesterday's start against the Indians was a prime example of Verlander's deep repertoire. Tallying his 100th career win, Verlander recorded three strikeouts each with his fastball and curveball, and two apiece with his changeup and slider. The 28-year-old right-hander has gone to his secondary stuff more this season, throwing his fastball less than 54 percent of the time (59 percent in 2010 and 67 percent in 2009). And his curveball, change and slider have been deadly:
Verlander uses his curveball around the same amount of the time to lefties and righties, while going to his changeup more versus left-handers and throwing his slider almost exclusively to same-handed hitters.
He rarely places his 86-91 MPH changeup within the strike zone (33 percent of the time, compared to the 42-43 percent leage average), baiting batters to lunge at the pitch off the plate. And lunge they have:
Hitters have chased 44 percent of Verlander's out-of-zone changeups, well above the 36 percent league average.
While his changeup is a chase pitch, Verlander puts his upper-70s-to-low-80s curveball and upper-80s slider in the zone 46-47 percent, which is slightly above the league average. Unless he misses with his location and puts his breaking stuff right down the middle of the plate, hitter's aren't making hard contact:
Over the past three calendar years, Verlander trails only Roy Halladay in Wins Above Replacement among starting pitchers. His heat gets most of the press, but Verlander is one of the best in the business because he has four plus pitches at his disposal.