Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander: One More Year Worth Drafting

Justin Verlander’s 2015 season got off to a bad start. However, his final 11 starts gave us hope that he isn’t done yet. What can we expect this season?

For years, the Detroit Tigers had an ace pitcher that opposing batters were afraid to face. He would strike out over 200 batters per season and dominate the league. Then, injuries came crashing down and made this pitcher a shell of his former self. That did change in the final month and a half of last season. In his age-33 season, what kind of production can we expect from Justin Verlander

We all know what kind of pitcher Verlander was in his prime. From 2006 to 2013, he had a collective 3.38 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 with a 137-75 record. The 2014 season, however, raised a lot of eyebrows. It began with core muscle surgery in January. He was able to recover in time to make his seventh-straight Opening Day start. The first half was a struggle. His strikeouts were down to 6.8 per nine innings pitched and his ERA and WHIP were also elevated to 4.71 and 1.49, respectively.

He finished the season with a 15-12 record, 4.54 ERA, 1.398 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. It was the first time since 2008 that he did not make the All-Star game. That trend would continue into last season.

Justin Verlander began the season on the DL with a right triceps strain. He would not make his first start until July 5. He allowed seven runs on seven hits and two walks and struck out five in five innings. He got his first win on July 29 when he allowed just one run over seven innings while striking out a season-high 10 batters. He had a couple of rough starts after that, but turned it up in the final weeks of the season.

From August 9 to October 3, Justin Verlander had a 6-5 record, 2.12 ERA, 0.956 WHIP and 73 strikeouts. With those stellar final 11 starts, he was able to finish as the 54th starting pitcher and 211st player on the Player Rater. That isn’t where we are used to, but compared to how he finished the 2014 season, this season was an improvement. It did help raise his preseason rankings by most experts.

In the shortened season, he had a 34.6 ground ball and 45.5 fly ball rate, both about five percent variances in the wrong direction. However, he was able to maintain a 7.5 HR/FB rate. He relied heavily on his fast ball, 49.6 percent. I do see that decreasing with the accumulation of injuries.

Justin Verlander isn’t the same pitcher he was once. Yet, he was able to become a formidable pitcher down the stretch. In standard leagues, Verlander is a nice SP3 draft pick in the middle rounds. He won’t reach 200 strikeouts with a sub-3.00 ERA, but is still worth drafting. He shouldn’t cost you much in auction drafts, either.

Projections: 12-10, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 165 stikeouts

Draft: Round 15