Justin Verlander, former ace and perennial Cy Young candidate for the Detroit Tigers, finished Thursday’s day game with a no decision, but helped remind fans that he is not the dominating star he has been in the past.
With a 7-6 loss against the Minnesota Twins, the Tigers watched Verlander give up a disappointing six earned runs over seven innings pitched. Raising his ERA to 3.68, his second worst season ERA in his career, Verlander continues a rough season that has not been reminiscent of his past success.
A terrible 2008 season aside, Verlander has been an absolute beast in his carrier with 136 wins in only eight seasons. Although his career ERA of just about 3.43 is not that much different from this season, Verlander has only a 12-9 record on a very good Tigers ballclub. Verlander is receiving more than five runs of support per game, placing him 11th of all MLB starting pitchers. As such, his record would be much better if Verlander were pitching as he has in the past.
From two no-hitters to six complete game shutouts to countless quality starts with one or no runs allowed, Verlander’s performance has historically been nothing short of dominant. In 2013, he has yet to throw a complete game in 27 starts, and has never finished a season – besides his first in which he pitched two games – without a complete game. To his credit, Verlander has had moments of greatness this season, with nine starts with seven or more innings pitched, and less than three earned runs allowed. Nevertheless, five of those starts came before May 6, as Verlander has struggled greatly since.
As Max Scherzer has clearly taken over the ace role for the Tigers, many might place Verlander as the number two starter in the rotation. Unfortunately for Verlander, I would place him even lower, as Anibal Sanchez has had a very good year. Sanchez has an 11-7 record, with almost an identical run support average and a much lower ERA of 2.45 in his 22 starts. It might be a bit of a stretch, but I might even argue that Doug Fister is having a better year than Verlander, making Verlander the fourth best starter on the squad. Fister’s ERA is slightly lower and he has a similar record to Verlander’s, despite receiving just about three and a half runs of support per game.
Verlander needs to make a push to the end of the season to re-establish himself as a consistent force in the Tigers’ rotation. Manager Jim Leyland will need Verlander to be better if the Tigers are to make a deep run and try to get back to the World Series.