Fantasy Baseball Bounce Back Candidate: Justin Verlander

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander had an extremely disappointing year in 2013. To acquire the pitcher’s services, it would have likely cost you a first or second round pick and he finished the season 147th on ESPN’s player rater, behind guys like Andrew Cashner, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana. Verlander finished 2013 with 13 wins to go along with a 3.46 ERA, 217 strikeouts and a very un-Verlander like 1.31 WHIP. As a result, his value has decreased entering 2014. According to www.fantasypros.com, Verlander is the ninth pitcher going off of draft boards (and the 47th player overall) and at that spot I believe fantasy owners are receiving a tremendous amount of value.

In the three seasons prior to 2013, Verlander pitched 713.2 innings and had a 1.04 WHIP (second) and an 8.93 K/9 rate (seventh). Heading into 2013, Verlander was widely regarded as the most dominant pitcher in baseball, so what caused the train to fall off the rails last season?

Verlander, along with his then-manager Jim Leyland, acknowledged in October that the pitcher had been struggling with his release all year, and that things finally started to click in September.

When we look at the stats, they too also show that something clicked once the calendar flipped to September. Verlander pitched 39.2 innings in September/October of 2013 and in those months he had a 2.27 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 48 strikeouts. Verlander’s fastball velocity had been a tick down from his career 94.7 mile per hour average. Once he made the adjustment to his release point, it went right back up to where it was supposed to be.

Verlander was also affected by a bit of bad luck. For his career, Verlander boasts a .288 BABIP and between 2010 and 2012 it ranged between .236 and .286. In 2013, Verlander had a .316 BABIP (second highest of his career) and that should surely regress back towards his career average in 2014; the Detroit Tigers are still a below average team defensively, but they should benefit mightily by moving Miguel Cabrera off of third base.

Verlander was certainly disappointing in 2013, but he’s as safe a bet as any to bounce back in 2014. I have Verlander projected to win 15 games to go along with a 3.57 ERA, 220 strikeouts and a 1.22 WHIP.

Based off of that projection, I have Verlander ranked as my 11th starting pitcher entering 2014, but I believe that projection serves best as his floor and it would not surprise me at all if he exceeds it and finishes 2014 as a top five pitcher once again. Justin Verlander should bounce back in a big way in 2014.

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Billy Moy is a Fantasy Sports writer at RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @william_moy6, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google


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