Lost, confused, no confidence. Those aren’t words you typically would associate when describing Justin Verlander, yet this year those words have fit him to a tee. It’s so puzzling that a guy can go from the most dominant pitcher in the world to a guy whose numbers resemble that of a 3rd or 4th starter in a rotation in less than 12 months. It hurts even more when you consider the fact that the Detroit Tigers just this offseason made him the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball with a contract that could reach as much as $202 million. To say there is concern would be an understatement.
No doubt the loss of velocity on the fastball has played a huge role. Verlander was throwing 100 with ease last season, dialing up whenever he wanted without strain or really any effort. This year the fastball has stayed around the 95 mph mark with some reaching 97-98 at most. Maybe that is the biggest reason the confidence just hasn’t been there this season when Justin Verlander pitches. It used to be when Verlander took the mound he had a face that said no one was going to get in his way. The biggest question around each start back then used to be will he throw a no hitter today more than will he get out of the 5th inning? The aggressive Verlander has been replaced with a disappointed, exasperated and exhausted Verlander who often spends more time complaining about calls than focusing on the next pitch.
So as we watch him struggle today against the lowly Chicago White Sox, we are left wondering when is Verlander going to return to form? Will he return to form? It seems like a weekly question that everyone thinks will be solved but hasn’t been yet. It used to be that today would be a guaranteed sweep for the Tigers, but nothing about Justin Verlander’s season this year is guaranteed.