It has been a roller coaster season (to be kind) for Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, and Thursday afternoon brought the latest “valley” on his wild ride.
Verlander allowed 6 runs on 10 hits (and 3 walks) over 7 innings, and while he avoided the pitcher “loss”, he certainly deserved some blame for the Tigers dropping a 7-6 decision to the Minnesota Twins. After a 1st-inning RBI double that he allowed to Chris Herrmann, Verlander appeared to calm down a bit, working out of a jam or two in the middle innings, but the wheels came off in the 5th frame when he allowed a 3-run home run to Twins right-fielder Ryan Doumit.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, this type of performance isn’t a shock anymore for the previously invincible Verlander. For the season, he has a respectable 3.68 ERA (3.79 xFIP), but his WHIP has skyrocketed to an unacceptable 1.36 while his strikeout rate has dipped to a 5-year low of 8.60 batters per 9 innings. The velocity is still there for Verlander (he sat in the mid-90′s all day on Thursday), but the stuff isn’t quite as biting, and the command has noticeably slipped.
On the bright side, Detroit’s offense did show up for Thursday’s game. Outfielder Austin Jackson led the way with a 3-run home run in the 6th while on the way to a 2-for-4 day, and Prince Fielder added 3 hits to help pace the lineup. However, it wasn’t enough to combat Verlander’s ineffectiveness, even against the hapless Twins.
The Tigers are certainly on their way to the playoffs, but the team’s ceiling varies greatly based upon just how effective their “number one” starter is by the time October rolls around. All eyes are on Verlander as he attempts to turn things around, but it is no longer a given that he’ll be dominant.