SD Dirk, Flickr
Is the Detroit Tigers’ ace finally feeling mortal? Lately, he’s certainly looking like it.
For the second start in a row, Justin Verlander was terrible, giving up eight runs and barely making it through one inning as the Tigers were humbled by the Texas Rangers 10-4. That followed up another putrid performance against the Cleveland Indians, which saw Detroit’s top pitcher surrender three earned runs while walking five in a messy 7-6 loss.
These last two performances, especially given the fact that they’ve come early in the season during May, raise an important question: are Verlander’s recent struggles in 2013 an indication of a fatigued arm or simply an unfortunate blip on the radar screen?
Since 2007, Detroit fans haven’t seen Verlander struggle in such dramatic fashion twice in a row in May until now. Prior to Thursday night’s start, Verlander’s worst career performances in the month were scattered, coming against Cleveland (seven earned runs during the 2007 season) and a six earned run showing against Tampa Bay in 2011. In each of those starts, Verlander was still a warrior, pitching at least five innings while not walking more than three. This time around, that cannot be said.
For people looking for a reason to panic about the star, these past two starts certainly lend a few reasons. It was Verlander’s shortest outing since 2010, which was a full season before plenty of stress would be placed upon his right arm. The past two years, in addition to his dominating and hefty 2011 regular season, Verlander has been asked to carry the load deep into the playoffs and pitch in critical games. Most of those starts featured Verlander’s pitch count being stretched into the 120 and 130 range, which is still quite a load for a pitcher who is said to be superhuman.
With an erratic start to 2013 based mostly upon a record number of April hits allowed (36 when compared to 34 being the previous high water mark) Verlander is suddenly looking more human to batters than ever before. Are all these hits and runs the result of velocity and control issues from extended arm fatigue? The numbers certainly would suggest a problem in that department thus far this season.
I remind you, the season is young. There are 123 games left, of which Verlander will have plenty of starts to iron out whatever issues may be plaguing him. We’ve seen him work through trouble before. If his issues are finally beyond his control and more related to how his body feels, however, the Tigers could have a real problem on their hands as the summer stands to get hotter and competition intensifies.
So, is Verlander set to finally face down some arm troubles he cannot fix? Or, are his last two starts, sandwiched around a rougher beginning to the season than he would like, simply a random occurrence?
To send any ideas for future question of the week topics, find Max DeMara on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax and let him know what you’ve been questioning!