Originally posted on Full Spectrum Baseball  |  Last updated 7/19/12
Sabermetric Spotlight: Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers


The Reason -

I realize I am completely going off base of what I stated in my last article, ya know, about avoiding the Detroit Tigers because of my emotional ties. But shoot, have you watched Justin Verlander pitch at all this year? The reigning AL MVP and CY Young winner is throwing gems almost each time he toes the rubber. Being that I’m stubborn and get rid of my cable during the summer months, however subscribing to only MLB.tv, it limits my opportunities to watch him live because of blackout restrictions. Of course the radio broadcast of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price think he is gods greatest gift to the mound, but after watching him dismantle the Orioles last Sunday, I had this thought; is he possibly having a better year than his banner year of 2011? What better person to peel the numbers back for my first Sabermetric Spotlight and get to the bottom of this inquiry.

Basic Numbers -

For kicks, lets start the analysis by viewing how 2011 compares to his 2012 season thus far, along with some projected numbers for the year.

Looking at these very basic statistics, we can form two thoughts.

  1. Wow, his pitching numbers are almost identical.
  2. He probably wont finish with as many wins and will possibly have more losses.

Addressing the second school of thought first, I wouldn’t consider this to be much of hindrance of his performance in 2012. Of course you will have local radio guy clamoring how important Wins and Losses are, but they are just fancy ornaments you put on your Christmas tree to dress it up for sitting in the window as common folk drive by and make swift judgements. Next.

But how about those eerily similar statistics? Let’s dig into those a little deeper to determine what areas he has improved or regressed on, to truly try and figure out if this year is as good as last.

Sabermetrics -

Chart time.

Again, very much of the same, not much variance from 2011 to 2012, on the surface. I will take the lower K/9 if it means a drop in HRs/9 as well as HR/FB%, these are improvements from last year. On the flip side, there are negatives to be found here. Namely, the increased BABIP (Detroit’s stellar defensive range not helping here), the drop in percent of runners being left on base and the slight increase of line-drives being hit. Adding up the blemishes, it appears that they outweigh the positives and the proof is in the elevated projected ERA number of 3.24 that SIERRA indicates.

In 2011 JV also had an ending ERA lower than what SIERRA estimated, but a difference of -.59 and not the -.81 that 2012 is being completed at. This number might be the most telling sign of what is to come down the stretch for Verlander. Before we peak into the competition ahead, lets see if he is pitching different during the games this year.

Pitch Types and Speed -

So is Justin doing anything different during the midst of the games from a pitch type and speed perspective? The answer is yes, but just slightly.

This year he is throwing his two-seam fastball (8.8% from 7.7%) and slider (10.4% from 8.4%) a hair more than in 2011. The pitches he is throwing less of? That would be his change up, (or the yellowhammer as the radio broadcast loves to reiterate), down to 14.6% from 18.3%, as well as his four-seam fastball 42.4% from 46.9%. Another interesting factoid is that his velocity across the board has dipped

Forward Looking -

Lets take a look at what potential match-ups JV will have the rest of the year, assuming that the Tigers rotation stays the same.

As you can see, the road for JV is not easy the rest of the way. 11 of his starts come against teams currently in the hunt for a playoff spot. His success (or failure) will be directly tied to the direction of how the Tigers end the season. If he continues to pitch the way he is expected to and the Tigers make the playoffs, it would be hard to make an argument that he is not the teams MVP (sorry Miguel).

Fantasy Analysis -

For both keeper and non-keeper leagues, Justin Verlander is an ace. Keep him, draft him, love him.

Did You Know? -

Justin Verlander wore number 59 in 2005, before switching to 35 in 2006.

How could I not include an image of these two?!

Conclusion and Projection -

Taking into account that Verlander has 14 starts remaining, 6 of those vs. Cleveland and Kansas City, there is no reason to expect a sudden explosion of mediocrity. Will he regress a bit, given the higher LD%, lower LOB%  and the suspect fielding behind him, compounded with the tougher road ahead, I would probably bet on it. His ERA will tick up closer to where his current SIERRA is projected but with all that said, the 29 year-old will lead the Tigers to a playoff berth and will close the year by becoming the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000 to win back-to-back AL CY Young awards. His lack of W’s will prevent him from taking home the AL MVP (briefly addressed my view on this above). Mike Trout also has a huge say in this award, too bad we don’t see that match-up this week, we all have to wait till September 9th, in Anaheim.

What do you think? Is 2012 better than 2011?


 Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes


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