Craig Remsburg column: Verlander not quite himself
Justin Verlander has not been horrible this season.
A lot of pitchers would like to have the Detroit Tiger hurler’s 8-5 record and 106 strikeouts to date.
But he hasn’t been vintage Verlander, either, where he dominates opposition batters like he did in 2011 when he earned both the Cy Young and American League Most Valuable Player awards.
It’s too much to expect Verlander, 30, to do that every year, of course, or maybe even once more in his career.
But he’s considered to be one of baseball’s best pitchers and just signed a $180 million contract extension worthy of that designation.
Verlander has been just “ordinary” to date, however. His earned run average is 3.72, he leads the Tigers in walks with 32 and has allowed seven home runs in 15 games.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder has yet to go eight innings this season after reaching that mark 29 times in the previous two.
“It’s been a battle so far,” he said after being touched for five runs and seven hits – two of them homers – over five innings in a 5-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.
He admitted he didn’t have command of his fastball and hasn’t been executing on the mound like Verlander of old.
All pitchers can have a bad game or two – or more – during an otherwise successful season.
In his previous start, he hurled seven shutout innings against Kansas City. So maybe the Orioles’ game was a fluke.
But Verlander has set the bar so high it’s unusual to see the Detroit ace struggle like he has.
Has his new megamillion contract had any effect on Verlander?
Is he pressing any more than usual to prove he deserved such a big salary?
That would be too easy an excuse. He’s not a rookie suddenly beset with riches. He’s earned a lot of money to this point.
Verlander does seem to be using his second, third and even fourth pitches more than his vaunted fastball that has terrorized – and shackled – a lot of batters over his career.
And when he does go to the heater, it’s not in the 95-100 mph range. It’s more like 90-93 mph that hitters are having an easier time catching up with.
He’s getting older and has pitched 1,646 innings over eight-plus pro seasons. That has to have some effect on his arm over time.
Verlander could turn it all around in a hurry, maybe even today when he faces the Boston Red Sox.
He could go back to being the dominating hurler we’ve come to know and cheer.
That would be welcome and nice to see.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.