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Entries in Justin Verlander (21)

Thursday
Sep202012

Tigers win behind Verlander and Cabrera

Justin Verlander (15-8) threw 122 pitches in six scoreless innings allowing five hits and three walks while striking out five.

Just five hits allowed by Verlander:

All-time Tigers wins leaders:

RkPlayerWFromTo
1 Hooks Dauss 223 1912 1926
2 George Mullin 209 1902 1913
3 Mickey Lolich 207 1963 1975
4 Hal Newhouser 200 1939 1953
5 Jack Morris 198 1977 1990
6 Tommy Bridges 194 1930 1946
7 Dizzy Trout 161 1939 1952
8 Bill Donovan 140 1903 1918
9 Earl Whitehill 133 1923 1932
10 Frank Lary 123 1954 1964
11 Justin Verlander 122 2005 2012

 Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/20/2012. 

Miguel Cabrera picked up his 41st home run and 130th RBI of the season.

Cabrera owns the entire field:

All-time Tigers single-season HR leaders:

RkPlayerHRYear
1 Hank Greenberg 58 1938
2 Cecil Fielder 51 1990
3 Rocky Colavito 45 1961
4 Cecil Fielder 44 1991
5 Hank Greenberg 44 1946
6 Miguel Cabrera 41 2012
7 Norm Cash 41 1961
8 Hank Greenberg 41 1940
9 Darrell Evans 40 1985
10 Hank Greenberg 40 1937
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/20/2012.

All-time Tigers single-season RBI leaders:

RkPlayerRBIYear
1 Hank Greenberg 183 1937
2 Hank Greenberg 170 1935
3 Hank Greenberg 150 1940
4 Hank Greenberg 146 1938
5 Rocky Colavito 140 1961
6 Magglio Ordonez 139 2007
7 Hank Greenberg 139 1934
8 Harry Heilmann 139 1921
9 Dale Alexander 137 1929
10 Dale Alexander 135 1930
11 Rudy York 134 1940
12 Harry Heilmann 134 1925
13 Cecil Fielder 133 1991
14 Vic Wertz 133 1949
15 Cecil Fielder 132 1990
16 Norm Cash 132 1961
17 Miguel Cabrera 130 2012
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/20/2012.
Tuesday
Aug072012

Verlander Dominates Yankees with Secondary Stuff

When most people think about Justin Verlander, they think about the triple-digit fastball that he can unleash whenever the occasion calls for it. But Verlander's dominance is the result of much more than elite heat. He has thrown his fastball a career-low 50% of the time in 2012, relying more upon his quality changeup (23%), curveball (16%) and slider (11%). Verlander's four plus pitches were all on display during his 14-strikeout shredding of the Yankees last night. Ichiro summed up the daunting task of facing the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner:

"In the eighth inning, he still had a 100 mph fastball," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "The rest of his pitches are great, too."

Verlander did indeed hit 100 in the eighth inning, but overall he used his fastball just 44% of the time against New York's lefty-laden lineup. Instead, he called on his tumbling changeup (30%) and Looney Tunes curveball (21%), with a few sliders mixed in for good measure. Verlander kept away from lefty hitters' wheelhouse, throwing 72% of his pitches away to them:

Verlander's pitch location vs. Yankees, 8/6/12

 

He recorded most of his Ks with his secondary stuff, punching out four hitters apiece on changeups and curveballs and getting one with his slider. Most of those strikeouts came on those low-and-away pitches to lefties:

Location of Verlander's Ks vs. Yankees, 8/6/12

 

Pitching backwards and hitting the corners -- not exactly what you'd expect from a guy with 100 MPH heat facing one of the game's best offenses. But that's why Verlander has emerged as one of this generation's greatest pitchers. He can beat hitters with breaking and off-speed stuff and then Blitzkrieg them with his fastball whenever he wants. Verlander can send batters slouching back to the dugout so many different ways. Just ask Ichiro.

 

Monday
Feb062012

Fastball Velocity and BABIP

On MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series, Brian Kenny and company ranked reigning AL Cy Young and MVP Award winner Justin Verlander second among starting pitchers. The discussion soon turned to Verlander's batting average on balls in play, which was just .236 in 2011.

While noting that many different factors can influence a pitcher's BABIP -- batted ball profile, defensive quality and park dimensions being just a few -- Kenny posited that Verlander's BABIP might not regress to the mean as much as other pitchers because of his elite-level velocity. Verlander's heat, which averaged a MLB-best 97.4 mph last year, might allow him to induce weaker contact (when hitters do make contact) and thus result in a lower-than-average BABIP.

Does that theory ring true? To get a rough idea, I placed all fastballs thrown in the majors into four bins based on fastball velocity: those tossed under 90 MPH, 90-92 mph, 93-95 mph and finally 96+ mph. The Verlander-level fastballs did have a slightly lower BABIP than the lower-velocity fastballs from 2008-2010, but the difference was minimal:

Velocity08 BABIP09 BABIP10 BABIP
96+ mph 0.303 0.307 0.301
93-95 mph 0.304 0.302 0.311
90-92 mph 0.305 0.312 0.302
> 90 mph 0.307 0.308 0.305

 

Something seemed to change in 2011, however. Those popping the mitt at 96 mph or higher had a far lower BABIP:

Velocity11 BABIP
96+ mph 0.283
93-95 mph 0.303
90-92 mph 0.3
> 90 mph 0.301

 

While the spread in BABIP among higher and lower-velocity fastballs was just a few points from 2008-2010, there was a nearly a 20-point gap in 2011. Check out the in-play average by pitch location for 96+ mph fastballs from 2008-2010, compared to 2011.

In-play average by pitch location for 96+ mph fastballs, 2008-2010

In-play average by pitch location for 96+ mph fastballs, 2011

BABIP fell a little on 96+ mph fastballs thrown up in the zone, but the biggest dip by far came on pitches thrown in the middle third of the strike zone vertically. Middle-zone fastball BABIP fell by over 30 points:

Part of Zone2008-102011
Up 0.262 0.257
Middle 0.323 0.291
Down 0.32 0.309

 

Verlander himself was a big beneficiary of the high-velocity fastball BABIP decline: his fastball had a .231 BABIP in 2011, third-lowest among qualified starters. Despite his zip, he actually had a .315 BABIP with his fastball the previous three seasons.

So, what does this all mean? If I knew, I'd be high-tailing it for Vegas. What we do know is that in a sample of over 2,800 balls put in play in 2011, hitters had an awfully hard time making forceful contact and getting hits on fastballs with Verlander-like velocity. There seems to be something to the "more velocity equals lower BABIP" theory. But figuring out whether the huge split that we saw in 2011 will persist is, well, about as easy as trying to hit a Verlander fastball.