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Entries in Justin Verlander (21)


Justin Verlander's Fastball is Just Fine, Thanks

Justin Verlander is dealing yet again in 2013, punching out over a batter per inning pitched and holding a Bob Gibson-esque 1.83 ERA. Yet despite that dominance, some scouts are worried that the game's highest paid pitcher isn't making radar guns malfunction like he used to. But Verlander? He's not concerned:

"No, I know where I'm at and I feel like it's gotten a little bit better every start," the 30-year-old said before [Thursday's] game. "I threw a lot of innings last year and I was basically three weeks behind coming into spring training this year on purpose but I think it seems like for the most part our entire team has started to get better velocity wise." (Detroit Free Press)

Verlander's velocity is down. He's averaging 93.2 MPH with his fastball in 2013, compared to 94.6 MPH last year. And while he reached back for a 101.5 MPH Hellfire missile in 2012, Verlander has maxed out at 96.6 this season. Even so, Tigers fans shouldn't start puffing packs of Marlboro Reds like manager Jim Leyland just yet. Here are some reasons that Verlander's fastball looks just fine.

  • Pitchers do typically come out of the gate in April with less-than optimal velocity, Verlander included. His 93.2 MPH average doesn't look so bad when you consider that he's dealing with a blister on his right thumb, and that he averaged 94 MPH in April of 2012.
  • Like Verlander himself said, his fastball velocity is getting better by the start. He averaged just 92.4 MPH on Opening Day against the Twins. By the time he faced the Twinkies again on April 30, he was up to an average of 93.4 MPH.
  • Slower or not, Verlander's fastball is making hitters look foolish. Verlander's fastball miss rate is down a bit in 2013 (18%) compared to 2012 (20%), but batters actually have a lower slugging percentage against the pitch this season (.241) than last (.389).

What Went Wrong For Verlander in Game 1?

Justin Verlander was Bob Gibson-esque during his first three starts of the 2012 postseason, surrendering only two runs and posting a 25-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24.1 innings pitched. Last night, however, the Giants jumped the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP for five runs and chased him after just four frames. What went wrong for the best pitcher on the planet in Game 1 of the World Series? Here's a quick rundown:

  • Verlander fell behind hitters often, throwing a first-pitch strike to nine of the 19 batters that he faced (47.4%). During the regular season, Verlander's 61.1% first-pitch strike rate was comfortably above the 59.8% average for American League starting pitchers.
  • He also caught too much of the plate. Verlander threw 29 of his 98 pitches (29.6%) to the horizontal middle of the strike zone, well north of his 19.9% average during the regular season.

Verlander's pitch location from Game 1 of the World Series

  • San Francisco went 4-for-4 when Verlander left a pitch over the middle of the plate, with Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Buster Posey and Barry Zito (!) recording hits. Verlander's two-strike offering to Zito, a career .097 hitter, must have had Jim Leyland reaching for his Marlboros:

Where not to throw a two-strike pitch to Barry Zito


Nine to Know: World Series Game 1, 8-3 Giants

1. Justin Verlander is human - Verlander went just four innings and allowed five runs on six hits , walking one and whiffing four. He hadn't left a game before his 5th inning since June 22, 2010 against the Mets, when he lasted two innings and allowed five runs. It should also be noted that in last season's ALCS, Verlander lasted just four innings against Texas and allowing three runs.

The Tigers showed great discipline at the plate, not chasing pitches out of the zone. Angel Pagan saw 22 pitches and Marco Scutaro had an eight-pitch at bat before ripping a single.

2. Pablo Sandoval is a Giant panda - Sandoval's three-homer game was only the fifth in World Series history. Albert Pujols hit three home runs in Game 5 last year for the St. Louis Cardinals, Reggie Jackson did it for the Yankees in 1977 and Babe Ruth did it in both 1926 and 1928.

3. 0-2? Oh no! - During the regular season, Verlander went 0-2 on 96 batters. He allowed 18 hits (.188) including three doubles, while striking out 40. In the ALDS, Oakland batters went 1-8 on 0-2 pitches with five strikeouts. The Yankees were 0-1 against Verlander on 0-2 counts in the ALCS. Last night, Verlander went 0-2 on Sandoval who took him deep on a 95 MPH fastball that was up in the zone.

4. What's the deal with Barry Zito? Zito threw 81 pitches and yet his average speed of his pitches didn't even reach that number. Zito's average velocity was 79.8 mph and his peak speed was 86.1. It's not that the Tigers could have been surprised, Zito's avg. speed during the regular season was 78.8 hitting a top speed of 87.3. But what was the deal with Zito who seemed to be having a full-fledged conversation with himself following his strikeout against Verlander? Whatever he said must have worked because he had an RBI single his next time up.

Zito worked the diagonal, pitching from corner-to-corner

5. What's the deal with Tim Lincecum? The Freak faced seven Tigers batters and whiffed five of them. Lincecum quickly got ready last night as Zito started to struggle and proved to be a great contrast to his felow Cy Young Award winning alum. Lincecum's average velocity was 88.5 mph and his peak speed was 92.2. The abrupt change of speeds was brutal for the rusty Tigers batters.

Five strikeouts: 2 on sliders, 2 on change-ups, one on a fastball

6. Cy Young Awards aplenty - I bet this was a World Series record for the most Cy Young Awards in one game: Verlander (2011),  Zito (2002) and Lincecum (2008, 2009). This was the  first time one Cy Young Award winner relieved another in the World Series since 1983 when Jim Palmer came in for Baltimore’s Mike Flanagan against the Phillies.

7. No way Jose - Jose Valverde did nothing to help his cause to regain his closer's role in the Detroit bullpen. After a 10-day layoff Valverde came on in relief for the Tigers, and in the words of Detroit manager Jim Leyland, "He wasn't terrible. He just wasn't good."  Valverde entered in the 8th with his team trailing, 6-1, 18 pitches later Valverde was done and the Tigers were down 8-1. In four postseason appearances this year, Valverde has thrown 2.2 innings allowing nine runs on 11 hits for a 30.38 ERA.

Valverde is getting no one out with 18 pitches, high in the zone, averaging 90.8 mph

8. Pablo goes all Elster on the Tigers - The only other player to hit three homers in a game at AT&T Park was the Dodgers shortstop Kevin Elster who did it on April 11, 2000 in the first game ever at Pac Bell, as it was called back then. Elster only hit 88-homers in his career (including 24 in 1996, hmm the same season Brady Anderson hit 50 homers).

9. I left my heart on the warning track in San Francisco - Only 84 homers were hit this regular season in San Francisco, the fewest of any ballpark in the majors. There have now been 28 games in which four or more homers have been hit at AT&T Park since Jhonny Peralta joined the Sandovalian procedings by hitting a two-run homer for the Tigers in the 9th. Of the 28 games, there have bee two five-homer games and one six-homer game (9/5/2000 against the Phillies, with the Giants going deep five times)

Here are the 84 AT&T Park homers by team:

Rk HR ▾
1 SFG 31
2 ATL 7
3 SDP 6
4 ARI 5
5 TEX 4
6 LAD 4
7 COL 4
8 NYM 3
9 STL 3
10 CIN 3
11 HOU 3
12 WSN 2
13 MIA 2
14 OAK 2
15 CHC 2
16 MIL 1
17 PHI 1
18 PIT 1
  TOT 84
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Original Table
Generated 10/25/2012.

Verlander's Postseason record (note the 0-3 in the World Series):

3 Yrs (8 Series) 6 4 .600 4.22 12 1 1 70.1 61 36 33 11 26 77 1.237
3 ALDS 3 0 1.000 2.67 5 1 1 30.1 20 9 9 2 14 39 1.121
3 ALCS 3 1 .750 4.32 4 0 0 25.0 23 12 12 5 6 22 1.160
2 WS 0 3 .000 7.20 3 0 0 15.0 18 15 12 4 6 16 1.600
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Original Table
Generated 10/25/2012.