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« Striking Out on Balls | Main | Verlander's Fastball Losing Favor with Umps »

Has Justin Verlander lost the intimidation factor?

Last week, on CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose asked golfer Greg Norman if Tiger Woods would reach 18 majors victories. Norman replied that the longer it took, the less likely it would happen because Norman said, "He's losing that intimidation factor. One of the greatest assets you can have as a great player is 'intimidation'...and right now he's losing that edge a little bit."

When I heard that, I thought of Justin Verlander.

I've written about the drop in the speed of his fastball and I've watched his problems snowball this season.

My colleague, David Golebiewski just wrote about this, but not using those words in his piece about Verlander's Fastball Losing Favor with Umps

Verlander has lost the intimidation factor with umpires

Golebiewski writes:

A few years ago, umps were quite generous to Verlander when batters took a fastball located off the plate. Verlander's called strike rate on fastballs thrown out of the strike zone was 16.4 percent in 2011, well above the 12 percent major league average for right-handed starting pitchers.... Since then, Verlander hasn't been so fortunate. His called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs fell to 15.1 percent in 2012, and sits at a league average 11.9 percent so far in 2013. The main difference is on arm-side fastballs -- umps aren't calling as many strikes on pitches thrown well inside to righty batters, or off the outside corner to lefties.''

We saw this in the 1st inning against Oakland

Tuesday night against Oakland we saw a remarkable 1st inning. It would have been astounding for any pitcher, but it was stunning that the pitcher was Verlander. 

Yes, that's correct: Justin Verlander threw 44 pitches in the inning.

Neither batters nor umpires were intimidated by Verlander

When umpires are intimidated, they widen the strike zone.

When batters are intimidated, they chase the first pitches that look good.

Both the umpires and the batters were insisting that Verlander throw strikes.

But Verlander was reticent to put the ball over the plate

Take a look at this game on August 22, 2011, the season in which Verlander took home the AL CYA and MVP.

Now compare it to last night

The differences are dramatic 

  • Look at the placement of the pitches last night - where are the pitches low in the zone?
  • Look at the decreases in velocity and at the maximum velocity
  • Look at the chase rate
  • Look at the pitches in the zone
  • Look at the miss rate (!) 

Last night was no exception

It's the fastball

There's your answer

Verlander has dramatically lost the intimidation edge on his fastball and as the fastball goes, so does his pitching.

Now the next question is:

Where will Jim Leyland place Verlander in his postseason rotation?

I say third behind Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, but I'm not the man in the dugout, I'm just a guy with the numbers.

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