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Entries in Justin Verlander (21)

Tuesday
Aug272013

Verlander's Fastball Losing Favor with Umps

Justin Verlander's fastball has been a hot topic, as the once-untouchable offering has gradually lost some zip (his average fastball velocity had dropped from 95 MPH in 2011 to 94.6 MPH in 2012 and 93.9 MPH in 2013) and been lashed into the gaps more often (batters slugged .358 in '11, .389 in '12 and .442 in '13). One little-discussed aspect of Verlander's fastball woes is that he's not getting as many called strikes on heaters thrown outside of the strike zone. That, in turn, is leading to more free passes for opposing hitters.

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. Among righty starters, only Livan Hernandez, Doug Fister, Shaun Marcum, Ryan Vogelsong, Dan Haren, Colby Lewis and Roy Halladay got more calls on out-of-zone fastballs.

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.

Verlander's called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs, 2011

 

Verlander's called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs, 2012

 

Verlander's called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs, 2013

Verlander's declining called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs is made more puzzling by his decline in velocity. In general, there's an inverse relationship between fastball velocity and called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs -- the slower you throw, the more called strikes you get. Out-of-zone fastballs thrown by righty starting pitchers between 90-92 MPH, for example, have a called strike rate of 12.4 percent over the past three years. That called strike rate dips to 11 percent for fastballs thrown between 93-94 MPH, and just 8.4 percent for fastballs thrown 95 MPH or harder. You'd think that a softer-tossing Verlander would get more called strikes, not fewer.

While the change in Verlander's called strike rate on fastballs thrown off the plate might not seem huge, those extra balls do add up. The difference between his 2011 and 2013 called strike rates on out-of-zone fastballs amounts to 20 additional balls thrown, which partially explains why his walk rate has climbed in recent years (from 5.9 percent of batters faced in 2011 to 6.3 percent in 2012 and 8.3 percent in 2013). When Verlander toes the rubber against the A's tonight, keep an eye on his off-the-plate heat -- the ump's generosity could be the difference between strike three and ball four.

Monday
Jun102013

The Inside Scoop: Verlander (2011) versus Verlander (2013)

I know it's unfair to compare any pitcher to the 2011 AL Cy Young Award and MVP winning Justin Verlander even if it's Verlander himself.

Then again, Verlander wasn't fair to opposing batters in 2011 so perhaps he's due to get this examination of his current status.

Verlander in 2011

In 2011: 

  • Batters hit .197 against Verlander
  • Had a .242 OBP
  • Slugged .313
  • Resulting in a nasty .555 OPS.
  • On top of that, batters struck out 25.8% of the time while walking just 5.9%.

Verlander in 2013

In 2013:

  • Batters have hit .262 against Verlander
  • Have a .319 OBP
  • Slugged .380
  • Resulting in a pretty human .699 OPS.
  • Batters have struck out even a more frequently 27.2% of the time while walking 7.6%.

So what's the difference?

Let's compare the first 13 starts of 2011 with the 13 starts V has made this season. 

  • In 2011, Verlander threw 1490 pitches.
  • In 2013, Verlander has thrown 1385 pitches. 

 As you can see, Verlander is not getting away with inside pitches this season as compared to 2011. 

 

  • On inside pitches in 2011, Verlander held batters to a .153 batting average.
  • On inside pitches in 2013, batters are hitting .309 against V.

 

Let's talk fastballs

Comparing the 13 starts from 2011 to 2013:

  • In 2011, Verlander threw 806 fastballs.
  • In 2013, Verlander threw 535 fastballs.
  • In 2011, batters hit .197 against Verlander's fastballs.
  • In 2013, batters have hit .296 against Verlander's fastballs.
  • In 2011, Verlander's fastballs averaged 95.2 with a maximum velocity of 101.0.
  • In 2013, Verlander's fastballs averaged 93.6 with a maximum velocity of 99.3.
  • In 2011, Verlander threw 642 fastballs that were 95+ mph.
  • In 2013, Verlander has thrown 260 fastballs that were 95+ mph.

Let's talk changeups

Comparing the 13 starts from 2011 to 2013:

  • In 2011, Verlander threw 262 changeups.
  • In 2013, Verlander has thrown 486 changeups.
  • In 2011, batters hit .258 against Verlander's changeups.
  • In 2013, batters have hit .289 against Verlander's changeups.
  • In 2011, Verlander's changeups averaged 86.3.
  • In 2013, Verlander's changeups averaged 86.6.
  • In 2011, the difference in the speed of Verlander's fastballs and changeup was 8.9 mph.
  • In 2013, the difference in the speed of Verlander's fastballs and changeup is 7 mph.

Change

Miss

Foul

Chase

2011

36.6%

31.0%

42.4%

2013

26.3%

34.9%

30.6%

Let's talk curveballs

Comparing the 13 starts from 2011 to 2013:

  • In 2011, Verlander threw 273 curveballs.
  • In 2013, Verlander has thrown 172 curveballs.
  • In 2011, batters hit .125 against Verlander's curveballs.
  • In 2013, batters have hit .148 against Verlander's curveballs.
  • In 2011, Verlander's curveballs averaged 79.1.
  • In 2013, Verlander's curveballs averaged 78.5.
  • In 2011, the difference in the speed of Verlander's fastballs and curveballs was 16.1 mph.
  • In 2013, the difference in the speed of Verlander's fastballs and curveballs is 15.1 mph.

Bottom line

Verlander's fastball has slowed down enough that it is less effective. The speed differential between his speed and offspeed pitches has decreased and as a result batters are not being fooled as frequently.

I for one will be watching to see if Verlander will amp it up as the weather gets warmer, whether this is just a 30-year old pitcher with 1600+ innings in the tank, or is there something bothering him?

 

Thursday
May162013

Verlander, Darvish Bring the Heat in Different Ways

Gloves might as well be optional tonight in Texas, as Justin Verlander (10 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.93 ERA) squares off against Yu Darvish (13.7 K/9, 2.73 ERA) at 8:05 PM EST on MLB Network. Verlander and Darvish are early Cy Young favorites in part because they bring the heat, but they use their premium fastballs in far different ways. Verlander lets it ride high and in the strike zone. Darvish, by contrast, pounds hitters with shin-high pitches.

Verlander is averaging "just" 93.3 MPH with his fastball, tying him with David Price, Justin Masterson and Derek Holland for highest among American League starters. Darvish also ranks in the top ten, averaging 92.8 MPH. Those lofty radar gun readings are translating into precious little hard contact for opposing hitters:

Lowest opponent slugging percentage on fastballs, 2013

Verlander and Darvish both throw hard, and they're both torturing hitters. That's where the similarities end, though. Check out their respective fastball locations in 2013:

Verlander's fastball location

Detroit's ace dares hitters to handle his searing fastball, throwing far more of them over the plate (56%) than the average MLB starter (52%). Most of those fastballs are belt-or-letter-high: Verlander has tossed just 19% of his heaters down in the zone, well under the 30% MLB average.

Darvish's fastball location

While Verlander's fastball philosophy can be summed up as, "Here it is, just try and hit it," Darvish's approach relies more on deception and location. Texas' ace has thrown just 41% of fastballs over the plate, the lowest clip among qualified starters. He has also thrown 41% of his heaters down in the zone, trailing only Jeremy Hellickson among AL starters.

High and in the zone, low and off the dish...either way, the result is devastating. Good luck, Rangers and Tigers hitters. You'll need it tonight.