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Entries in Justin Verlander (21)


Verlander's High-Low Approach Baffles A's in Game 5

The New York Giants' Christy Mathewson shut out the Philadelphia Athletics in three starts spanning 28 innings during the 1905 World Series, setting a postseason record for the most consecutive scoreless frames against a single opponent. Last night, Justin Verlander broke that century-plus old record by once again torturing the A's -- the Oakland A's. After his 10-strikeout gem in the decisive fifth game of the ALDS, Verlander has now kept Oakland from crossing home plate for 30 consecutive innings.

Facing an A's lineup featuring seven players swinging from the left side, Verlander worked the outside corner with his fastball (thrown 66 percent of the time) and changeup (17 percent). Overall, the Tigers righty tossed 64 percent of his pitches to the outer third of the strike zone. Verlander elevated his fastball, and buried his changeup at hitters' knees.

He showed excellent command of his heater, painting the high-and-away corner of the zone and practically never leaving one over the heart of the plate. He threw 35 of his 73 fastballs (48 percent) to the upper third of the strike zone. Verlander punched out seven A's with his fastball, including swinging Ks against Brandon Moss (three times), Josh Donaldson (twice) and Stephen Vogt. Oakland batters whiffed 18 times in 38 swings (47 percent) against Verlander's gas -- nearly triple the major league average (16.5 percent).

Verlander's fastball location vs. Oakland in ALDS Game 5

Verlander's changeup, by contrast, tumbled to the bottom of the zone. He threw his changeup low about 69 percent of the time, and left just one off-speed pitch high all night. Jed Lowrie went down swinging on a changeup located more than a foot off the plate.

Verlander's changeup location vs. Oakland in ALDS Game 5


Verlander's dominant Game 5 outing was the second-best playoff start ever for a Tiger according to Game Score, the Bill James-created stat measuring a pitcher's performance on a 0-100 scale based on innings pitched, Ks, walks, hits and runs allowed. Who's the best? That would be Verlander, who also eliminated the A's last year in ALDS Game 5.

Highest Game Scores (GSc) for Tigers pitchers in playoff history



A Brilliant Sonny Gray as Forecasted

Sonny Gray was brilliant last night for the Oakland A's last night in the Oakland 1-0 win over the Tigers that tied the ALDS at 1-1.

Justin Verlander was brilliant as well, but we have seen that many, many times before, so we are not focusing on him this morning. But most of the world of baseball fans had not seen Gray before in his 10 prior big leagues starts and in one of the best games of this baseball season they got to see a 23-year old righty who would not fit in with the Red Sox because all he seems able to grow is a wisp of a mustache.

Let's take a deep dive into Gray's performance last night

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
IP P P/PA Fast# Curv# Slid# H BB K Strk# Strk% AVG OBP SLUG
Sonny Gray 8.0 111 3.83 82 27 2 4 2 9 65 58.6% .154 .214 .154

Look at the speed differential in Gray's pitches

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
P Strk# Strk% Vel MxVel Zone% Chas% ClStk% Miss% Foul%
Fastball 82 47 57.3% 93.6 96.0 50.0% 17.1% 27.1% 11.8% 44.1%
Curveball 27 17 63.0% 81.0 82.1 40.7% 43.8% 33.3% 33.3% 41.7%
Slider 2 1 50.0% 82.7 83.2 0.0% 50.0% 0.0% 100.0% 0.0%

Gray by count

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
P Strk# Strk% Vel MxVel Zone% Chas% ClStk% Miss% Foul%
0-0 Count 29 16 55.2% 91.2 95.4 58.6% 8.3% 48.0% 0.0% 75.0%
Two strikes 26 17 65.4% 87.5 96.0 38.5% 43.8% 25.0% 42.9% 28.6%
Pitcher's Count 36 19 52.8% 87.4 96.0 30.6% 32.0% 10.5% 35.3% 35.3%
Hitter's Count 31 17 54.8% 92.7 94.9 51.6% 6.7% 0.0% 5.9% 47.1%
Even Count 44 29 65.9% 91.0 95.4 56.8% 31.6% 51.6% 15.4% 46.2%

Two graphics speak volumes

You have seen the numbers, but the best way to truly appreciate what Gray did last night is by looking at where his pitchers went and, in the process, see why the Tigers were flailing and flustered

Gray's Fastball
Of the 82 fastballs that Gray threw, 34 were in the upper half of the zone and 64 were in the outer half of the zone.
Gray FB
Gray's Breaking Balls
Of the 29 breaking balls (27 curves, two sliders) that Gray threw, 25 were in the lower half of the zone and 17 were in the outer half of the zone.
Gray BB

Gray only threw 10 pitches in the middle of the plate to three batters who swung at eight of them, fouled five of them off and went 0-for-3 on the other three.

The forecast is bright for Oakland

I believe it is required to make some kind of meteorological comment when writing about Sonny Gray, consider it done.

Gray was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the first round (18th pick) of the 2011 amateur draft and he is under the A's control until free agency year of 2019. Maybe by then he'll be able to grow a Red Sox beard

But, I leave you with Tigers' manager Jim Leyland's words, who summed it up perfectly:
“Gray was everything as advertised, a live fastball coupled with an electric curve. I have to give him a lot of credit. I mean we’re not swinging the bats the way we’re capable, but you can’t take anything away from that performance."

Has Justin Verlander lost the intimidation factor?

Last week, on CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose asked golfer Greg Norman if Tiger Woods would reach 18 majors victories. Norman replied that the longer it took, the less likely it would happen because Norman said, "He's losing that intimidation factor. One of the greatest assets you can have as a great player is 'intimidation'...and right now he's losing that edge a little bit."

When I heard that, I thought of Justin Verlander.

I've written about the drop in the speed of his fastball and I've watched his problems snowball this season.

My colleague, David Golebiewski just wrote about this, but not using those words in his piece about Verlander's Fastball Losing Favor with Umps

Verlander has lost the intimidation factor with umpires

Golebiewski writes:

A few years ago, umps were quite generous to Verlander when batters took a fastball located off the plate. Verlander's called strike rate on fastballs thrown out of the strike zone was 16.4 percent in 2011, well above the 12 percent major league average for right-handed starting pitchers.... Since then, Verlander hasn't been so fortunate. His called strike rate on out-of-zone fastballs fell to 15.1 percent in 2012, and sits at a league average 11.9 percent so far in 2013. The main difference is on arm-side fastballs -- umps aren't calling as many strikes on pitches thrown well inside to righty batters, or off the outside corner to lefties.''

We saw this in the 1st inning against Oakland

Tuesday night against Oakland we saw a remarkable 1st inning. It would have been astounding for any pitcher, but it was stunning that the pitcher was Verlander. 

Yes, that's correct: Justin Verlander threw 44 pitches in the inning.

Neither batters nor umpires were intimidated by Verlander

When umpires are intimidated, they widen the strike zone.

When batters are intimidated, they chase the first pitches that look good.

Both the umpires and the batters were insisting that Verlander throw strikes.

But Verlander was reticent to put the ball over the plate

Take a look at this game on August 22, 2011, the season in which Verlander took home the AL CYA and MVP.

Now compare it to last night

The differences are dramatic 

  • Look at the placement of the pitches last night - where are the pitches low in the zone?
  • Look at the decreases in velocity and at the maximum velocity
  • Look at the chase rate
  • Look at the pitches in the zone
  • Look at the miss rate (!) 

Last night was no exception

It's the fastball

There's your answer

Verlander has dramatically lost the intimidation edge on his fastball and as the fastball goes, so does his pitching.

Now the next question is:

Where will Jim Leyland place Verlander in his postseason rotation?

I say third behind Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, but I'm not the man in the dugout, I'm just a guy with the numbers.

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