Coming into the 2013 MLB season, Detroit’s Justin Verlander was considered to be the pinnacle of reliability. After all, Verlander had thrown 200+ innings in six consecutive seasons (including 220+ in four straight), and hadn’t posted a FIP (fielding-independent pitching) over 3.00 since 2009. In that time, Verlander ascended to the top of the pitching profession, and that is why it has been so surprising to see him visibly struggle this season.
On Monday, Verlander brought some much-needed clarity to the situation.
During an interview with ESPN Radio, Verlander cited a mechanical flaw in his delivery that was uncovered prior to his last outing. He referenced that the issue “led to (him) being inconsistent trying to deliver the ball, especially with (his) fastball command”, and even went as far as to say that it was the “root of all (his) problems this year”.
In the baseball community, there were certainly suspicions that something was “off” with Verlander, and this could very well be it. In addition to location issues (and a subsequent walk rate of 3.34 per 9), Verlander’s velocity has dipped this season as well, with a fastball average of 93.7 MPH as opposed to 94.7 in 2012 and 95.0 in 2013.
The 2011 MVP and Cy Young award winner has still been fairly productive this year, posting a respectable 3.77 ERA (3.04 FIP) with a strikeout rate of 9.77 per 9, but clearly, he can be better, and the middling Tigers (and his fantasy owners) are in desperate need of a return to his peak form. It seems as if he’s figured things out, but we’ll be able to monitor his performance again when he takes the mound on Thursday in Toronto against the red-hot Blue Jays.