Ok so the name alone probably makes you cringe, as there are few pitchers off to worse starts then the one that Justin Verlander is enjoying so far this season. For those of you don't know, or have been living under a rock, this is current 2009 stat line.
2009- 0-2, 9.00era, 1.71whip, 25k, 9bb, 10.74K/9, 3.857BB/9
Very....poor. Ah hell, lets just come right out and say it, Verlander sucks.
So you may be wondering what's point of this blog, am I going to rip on Verlander the whole time?
But I am going to show you that, there are causes for both concern and optimism, which ever route you choose is entirely up to you.
Now I stole this blog idea from a post I made on a Verlander thread over at www.mastersball.com, and here was my response.
Increasing fly ball rate - We know (or just accept) that Comerica Park is a pitchers park, but it's not relly a good thing, (pitcher park or not) when you're flyball rate increase, and with that comes the correlation that his ground ball rates have decreased.
2006-2009,( Fly ball) 35.2%, 39.8%, 42.4%, 46.9%
2006-2009 (Ground ball) 41.7%, 41.1%, 39.9%, 28.1%
Increased Reliance on the Fastball - Much like Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander is over relying on his fast ball this season. While dropping the usage of his change up, and upping the curveballs thrown. In the case of Liriano it's easy to understand, you don't want to throw too many sliders when you've had Tommy John, I'm not sure what Verlanders problem is.
2006-2009(Fastball) - 66.7%, 62.3%, 63.6%, 68.7%,
2006-2009 (change up) 17.2%, 18.8%, 15.2% 7.4%,
2006-2009 (Curve ball) 16.1%, 18.9%, 20.5%, 23.9%
Abysmal Strand Rate- 39.6%. That's the only number you need to see, that Verlander has been, he hasn't been leaving any men on base.
Babip - Once again you only need one stat. .412 Babip. Consider that the league norm is .300, and one would quickly assume that he's do for an improvement.
BB/9 - It's actually down a tick from last season 3.90-3.86, but it's still a full walk higher then his elite seasons 2.90-2.99.
K/9 & K/BB Rates Are Up - K/9 increase over last season from 7.30-10.71
K/BB ratio has improved too 1.87-2.78.
What's all this mean? Batters are missing more of his pitchers, they're just connecting when there are runners on the base paths, put there via the walks.
Contact Rates - Batters contact rates are at a career low 75.1%, down from 81.4% last season. First pitch strike rate is also up 60.4% up from 57.8%.
Hitters are swinging at more pitchers outside the zone (24.5%-26.6%), and making less contact (66.7%-65.3%), while swinging at less pitches inside the zone (68%-66.7%), and making less contact (86.8%, 78.9%)
FIP - His Fielding Independant Pitching thus far calculates that his ERA should be 4.09, not the horrid 9.00 he sports now.
Even his Expected ERA is lower, still bad but lower at 6.06.
It truly is puzzling but seems that by looking at the number Verlander's worst enemy is the increased walk rate, and when hitters make contact men are on base.
Right now Verlander is a guy that I'm avoiding (though I do own him), your best bet is to bench him until he figures things out, but who know if that will happen. 2008, could very well be the norm for Verlander, and his 2006-2007 seasons may be the outliers."
It's pretty fair to say that, unless Verlander improves his control, he won't be an effective pitcher this season. The dominance is there, at a high rate, but the inability to command the strike zone and limit the damage when he does have men on the will ultimately determine his fantasy value this season.