It’s not like Justin Verlander is completely unusable as a pitcher, but he’s definitely not the same as he used to be.
If you watch the Detroit Tigers on Fox Sports Detroit, you will often hear Mario Impemba and Rod Allen say that Verlander’s “stuff” is still there. This simply isn’t the case. Verlander used to dial up his fastball to 100 MPH at the end of games and dominate with his stuff. Now it seems 97 MPH is the top end of his heater and he looks like he has put everything he has into it rather than letting it flow out of his hand.
He also appears to be trying to trick hitters with off-speed pitches. This may be a product of the fact that his fastball velocity is down and he is not as comfortable falling back on it. Verlander’s fastball velocity has dropped to an average of 93.1 MPH this season compared to 95+ MPH from 2009-2011. He averaged 94.3 MPH in 2012, so the drop is pretty significant.
He’s also throwing his fastball less often than he ever has. He’s currently throwing his heater 55.6 percent of the time compared to 58.6 percent in 2010 and as high as 67.9 percent of the time in 2009.
Verlander’s success used to stem from his ability to dominate a game with his fastball. This season, he appears to be trying to nibble at the corners with breaking pitches, which has resorted in a higher walk rate as well. He is giving up 3.27 walks per nine innings compared to 2.04 in 2011.
Verlander’s fastball topped out over 101 MPH every year from 2009-2012, but this season he has yet to touch 100 MPH on the gun. His success has always hinged on his fastball, and if it starts to come back down to earth, so will the rest of his numbers.