Justin Verlander continues to struggle

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers are hanging on, for now, at the top of the American League Central. But will we be able to take them seriously as World Series contenders if Justin Verlander doesn’t get things turned around?

The former Cy Young and MVP award winner continued his exaggerated struggles on Monday, surrendering seven runs in an important divisional game against the surging Kansas City Royals.

Two red flags for Verlander have come in the form of his drop in velocity and the steep decline in his strikeout rate. His fastball velocity, which started to dip last year, is down to an average of 93.4 (per FanGraphs). His K/9 is all the way down to 6.58 from 8.95 one year ago.

More from Detroit Tigers

There is still plenty of time for Verlander to turn things around; unfortunately the signs that he will do so are difficult to find. If he’s not missing bats and getting hit hard, it is not simply an issue that can be attributed to a fluky stretch or bad luck. That is also found in his expected fielding independent pitching, or xFIP, which sits at 4.72.

There is still plenty to believe in with Verlander given his track record. Further, the Tigers can afford to be patient due to the presence of Max Scherzer and the emergence of Rick Porcello in their rotation. That said, they will struggle to win the AL Central, let alone anything bigger, if Verlander doesn’t get right.