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).