But, even before that, I was wondering about him this year. I've read a handful of articles about his velocity decreasing. I'm slightly concerned with that, but not overly so. He's 30. Of course his velocity is going to decline a little. Also, over the years, he's gone from a guy who would consistently throw his fastballs in the mid-to-high 90s (I've seen him get as high as 102) to a guy who usually starts games a little lower than that (low-to-mid 90s), and relies more on his terrific secondary pitches. His strikeout pitch used to be a high-90s fastball, but it's now his excellent slider, or a nasty curve that just drops into the strikezone at the last minute. He has evolved from a thrower to a pitcher. (Also, he hit 100 on the gun in his last start, so it's not like his velocity has abandoned him.)
And yet, I still felt like something was off this year. He's still good, but I didn't see him going nearly as deep into games as he has been the past few years. Where you used to be able to count on Verlander giving you 7 innings every night, his pitch counts have been getting so high so early that we really haven't seen that Verlander show up yet.
I realized that perhaps my expectations were just too high, so I looked at some numbers going back to 2010. This is what the average Verlander start has looked like over that time frame.
Innings pitched: 6.75
Earned Runs: 2.55
Batters Faced: 28.03
2011 (his MVP year)
Innings pitched: 7.32
Earned Runs: 1.97
Batters Faced: 28.5
Innings pitched: 7.19
Earned Runs: 2.12
Batters Faced: 28.97
Innings pitched: 6.39
Earned Runs: 1.38
Batters Faced: 26.28
I excluded his last start from the 2013 stats, as that one terrible start skewed the rest of the results. If it becomes a pattern, I'll put it back in. But, since that should be his worst start of the season (by a wide margin, hopefully), I decided to leave it out.
I realize this isn't the cleanest way to show these numbers, but I was too lazy to put a graph together. Maybe I'll do that after his next start.
In looking over those numbers, these things jump out:
1. In case it wasn't readily apparent before, 2011 and 2012 were terrific years for him. It's not really a shock, but still. Holy crap. Those numbers, man.
2. My feeling was correct. He is not going as deep into games as he has the past few years. On average, he's throwing 5-6 fewer pitches per game, but only facing 2 less batters and pitching around .8 inning fewer per outing.
3. Even seeing that, it's hard to complain too much. When your ace is throwing around 6.2 innings per game and giving up 1.38 runs per game, that's pretty incredible.
By the end of the year, I'm sure this start against the Rangers will only be a blip on the radar screen. At some point, I assume he'll get a little more economical with his pitches, and we'll see him going deeper into games. I think he'll be fine.
Still, when he takes the hill against the Indians on Wednesday, I'll be saying a little prayer that he fixed whatever went wrong against the Rangers. (Which, for the most part, seemed to be pitch location. He just wasn't hitting his spots. Consistently missing his pitches high. That has to be a little mechanical thing that should be fixed pretty quickly.)