When most people think about Justin Verlander, they think about the triple-digit fastball that he can unleash whenever the occasion calls for it. But Verlander's dominance is the result of much more than elite heat. He has thrown his fastball a career-low 50% of the time in 2012, relying more upon his quality changeup (23%), curveball (16%) and slider (11%). Verlander's four plus pitches were all on display during his 14-strikeout shredding of the Yankees last night. Ichiro summed up the daunting task of facing the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner:
"In the eighth inning, he still had a 100 mph fastball," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "The rest of his pitches are great, too."
Verlander did indeed hit 100 in the eighth inning, but overall he used his fastball just 44% of the time against New York's lefty-laden lineup. Instead, he called on his tumbling changeup (30%) and Looney Tunes curveball (21%), with a few sliders mixed in for good measure. Verlander kept away from lefty hitters' wheelhouse, throwing 72% of his pitches away to them:
Verlander's pitch location vs. Yankees, 8/6/12
He recorded most of his Ks with his secondary stuff, punching out four hitters apiece on changeups and curveballs and getting one with his slider. Most of those strikeouts came on those low-and-away pitches to lefties:
Location of Verlander's Ks vs. Yankees, 8/6/12
Pitching backwards and hitting the corners -- not exactly what you'd expect from a guy with 100 MPH heat facing one of the game's best offenses. But that's why Verlander has emerged as one of this generation's greatest pitchers. He can beat hitters with breaking and off-speed stuff and then Blitzkrieg them with his fastball whenever he wants. Verlander can send batters slouching back to the dugout so many different ways. Just ask Ichiro.