For the first few months of the 2014 MLB season, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander struggled mightily. Not only were his strikeouts down, but his walks were high and he gave up way too many home runs. His strikeout rates continue to drop and he still walks too many batters, but he has made some adjustments recently that have allowed him to pitch more efficiently.
Instead of focusing on blowing his fastball by hitters, he has started mixing up his pitches better, relying more on finesse rather than power to get hitters out. So far, those adjustments have worked out very well for the 31-year-old veteran.
In particular, he has looked very good since mid-July. Since then, he has made four starts, allowing three runs or less in every single one of them. He also has pitched a minimum of 6.2 innings in each of them. He has even managed to slightly decrease his home runs allowed as of late.
In his past five starts, he has allowed four home runs. That is still a big number, but you can tell that as he continues to gain confidence on the mound, those numbers will steadily start to decrease.
The Tigers are certainly a scary pitching staff right now. With David Price, Max Scherzer, Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Anibal Sanchez in the team’s rotation, Verlander may no longer be considered an ace for them. That may be the best thing for his career at this point anyway.
Instead of having to go out every night and pitch a near perfect game, the stacked rotation will allow him to work through his issues and become better for the playoffs.
It is still early, but if the way he is pitching right now is any indication, Verlander is showing signs of returning to his dominant form of a few years ago. If he can do that, the Tigers should and will be considered favorites to win the 2014 World Series.