By most accounts, Justin Verlander is having a down season. How much of a down season is up for debate as I’ve heard everything from “He stopped doing steroids and he’s a terrible pitcher now” to “he’s lost some velocity and needs to adjust better, he’ll be fine.”
However, a down year for Justin Verlander is still a pretty damn fine season for most pitchers. I’m a fan of advanced stats and stating them in context, so let’s look at some of the more accepted advanced stats and some traditional stats of Justin Verlander and how he stacks up compared to the rest of MLB:
Innings Pitched, 7th
(WAR: Wins Above Replacement, a way to measure every player in baseball’s true value; FIP: Fielder Independent Pitching, a way to determine the average runs a pitcher would allow in 9 innings if every pitcher had the exact same defense behind them; K/9: stike outs per 9 innings pitched).
Those are the rankings of a very above average MLB pitcher right there. Justin Verlander is putting up a lower K/9 than normal for him, but only by about .25 strike outs per 9 innings. So, this is not effecting him very much. The BIG issues are his walks and hits allowed.
Batting Average on Balls in Play is a telling stat about the luck a pitcher has over a given amount of time. In Verlander’s case, even with marginal defense behind him, Verlander has had above average BABIPs (a lower number, meaning better luck at balls in play being turned into outs). However, this season, he has a .317 BABIP, which is about average, meaning, more balls put in play are finding holes in the defense, which is part on the pitcher, but a good amount of luck involved.
By having a higher BABIP it means a few more runners per game being on base against him, giving the opponents a few more opportunities to turn them into runs.
Also, over the previous two seasons Verlander was walking, on average 2.16 batters per 9 innings, but in 2013 he’s walking 3.14 batters per 9 innings, leading to more runners and more runs scored as well, higher pitch counts and earlier exits from games.
These two things, one mostly luck, another telling of a bit of lack of control, have led Justin Verlander to have an above average season for 95% of MLB pitchers, but a down year for him.
Justin Verlander is still an elite talent that can dominate at any given time (12K’s in 6 innings against the Twins on Monday) and very much a part of the Tigers future. When all is said and done, someone will look back at Verlander’s career, see 2013’s numbers and not give it a second thought, still a good year, just not a Cy Young season, which is the bar he set for himself and Tigers fans, so it looks worse than it really is.