Throughout the 2013 MLB regular season, many people around the baseball world came to the conclusion that Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander was suddenly over the hill as the result of a sub-par season.
The basis for this belief was that Verlander’s once overpowering stuff seemed to be waning away as the result of large workloads in past seasons — he threw 200 or more innings in the preceding five years — and that he was simply never going to be the same guy again.
This line of theorists also came to the idea that Verlander was not going to be perform well in October, as the step up in competition would prove to be another death blow to the once overpowering ace. Oh, how wrong they were.
On Tuesday afternoon, Verlander struck out 10 batters over eight innings of one-run ball, and although the Tigers lost 1-0, it was clear that there was nothing more the towering pitcher could have done. The game was almost like a step into a time machine, as Verlander made batter after batter look completely silly, showing the type of effort that came to signify him in past years.
But this was not a one-off blast from the past, as the facts show that Verlander’s stuff has returned and he is having one of the best postseasons in recent ages. In three games during the 2013 postseason Verlander has thrown 23 innings, with 31 strikeouts, 10 hits allowed, a 0.57 WHIP, and a 0.39 ERA. Yes, you did read that stat line correctly.
During this epic string of performances, Verlander has simply overpowered opponents with a fastball that sits in the 92-95 mph range, but finds its way up to 99 when a big out is needed. On top of this, there is his equally impressive array of off-speed stuff, which includes a change-up, curveball and slider, all ranking as above-average pitches. Each and every one of these has been liable to be used in any situation, and has made life at the plate a living nightmare for any hitter.
To go along with this, Verlander has displayed the killer instinct that some believed was missing during the 2013 regular season, as it almost appears that he is laughing at the angst hitters feel when coming to the plate. This belief has only helped to fuel Verlander further, as he knows that everyone in the stadium knows no batter truly has a chance against him. And the scary thing is that he is completely right.
So for all of those who believed that Max Scherzer or Anibal Sanchez passed Verlander as the best pitchers in the Tigers’ rotation, the 2013 postseason has proven that this is not the case. Both of these guys are undoubtedly great pitchers, but they are not the type of guy that you want on the mound in a Game 7 with your season on the line.
Verlander is that guy, and despite a poor regular season — that is if you consider 13 wins, 217 strikeouts, a 3.46 ERA and 4.6 WAR a poor season — he will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Sometimes it just requires the lights to shine a little brighter for this to register to the masses. Welcome to October, folks.