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Justin Verlander - A Power Pitching Workhorse

Updated on December 4, 2018

Justin Verlander has been one of the most dominating and impressive pitchers in all of Major League baseball since he debuted. He was indisputably the single best starting pitcher in baseball for some years. Then he seemed to spin into a decline so typical of power pitchers who're heading into their 30s.

But was the decline permanent? Perhaps not. Justin Verlanded finished the 2015 season looking like the ace he had been in earlier years. In all fairness to humanity itself, we can't go around thinking a 33 year old alpha male type athlete is over the hill. So he had a couple of seasons where he was off the mark of his previous greatness. Isn't that just the way life goes for most all of us, at some point or another?

I witnessed with my own two eyes the second to the last start Nolan Ryan ever had. Nolan was pitching in the old Arlington Stadium, and throwing 96 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun. He was more than ten years older than Justin Verlander is now. So there is no reason Verlander can't continue to pitch at the level he had previously pitched, and for many years to come.

You just have to work harder at keeping your physique in order as you age. That's all. You get to become wiser as you age, and Verlander becoming a pitcher who approaches pitching as a science, that should scare hitters.

The classic power pitching repertoire of Justin Verlander

Verlander is a master craftsman of pitching. He has all skills necessary for success. He is one of the lucky persons born in this world with the rare gift to where he can throw a baseball at or over 100 miles per hour. But the great fastball Verlander has wouldn't be worth so much were his other pitches also not very good.

His secondary pitches are very good. He throws a terrific 12 to 6 curve-ball which often buckles the knees of batters. He has a great slider, and throws a circle change up too. Perhaps most important of all is he has the ability to change speeds on any of these pitches while still throwing them for strikes. Three times thus far he has led the American League in strikeouts.

Verlander is well documented to add velocity to his fastball when ahead in the count. With no strikes, Verlander averages under 95 miles per hour with the fastball. When ahead in the count, he reaches back a little further and blows an average of 97 miles per hour towards home with the fastball. The circle change-up, which can sometimes act like a screw-ball is generally reserved for left handed batters. Verlander also generally only throws his slider to right handed batters.

Justin Verlander Slow Motion 100mph Fastball Pitching Mechanics - Detroit Tigers MLB MVP

Justin Verlander - flawless pitching mechanics allow him to be a workhorse pitcher

Verlander has been an absolute workhorse of a pitcher. He had 8 straight seasons of more than 200 innings, and for a ten year stretch, he threw more total pitches than anyone in all of baseball. How many pitches did he throw? Yes, MLB absolutely has the answers to such questions. 35, 547 pitches did Justin Verlander throw.

Verlander is that rare throwback pitcher. A guy from out of the past, like Roger Clemens, able to throw 150 or so pitches in a game, and then still make it out there to the mound in his next start, and turn out a quality start. He can do this for his flawless pitching mechanics. Verlander's pitching delivery is something to be modeled. You'll see pages online comparing the flawless mechanics of Verlander to the iffy delivery of someone with equal talent, like Stephen Strasburg.

Also, Justin is a big man. He goes six feet and five inches, and weighs 225. When a man is built like that, the dream build for a starting pitcher, and then said man has such beautifully mechanical deliveries, and the competitive desire to be the best. Well, that's Justin Verlander. The 8 straight seasons of over 200 innings pitched could have easily been 9 straight. In 2006 Verlander was limited to 186 innings, likely by team management.

Complete games? Well, Verlander has led the American League in complete games. He did so in 2012. he had 6 complete games that year. Completed games by starting pitchers are increasingly rare in baseball. Gone are the days of Clemens and Schilling completing 15 or so games in a season.

Justin Verlander at Goochland High School

Verlander was rather good at baseball in high school and college

Before any of these things had come to pass, these things about workhorses and pitchers and 100 mile per hour fastballs, there was baby Justin Brooks Verlander, born on February 20, 1983. He had an interest in baseball and a father who wanted to see him pursue that interest, and so his father invested in his son. He sent him to attend the Richmond Baseball Academy.

Justin attended Goochland High School in Virginia, and then went on to Old Dominion University. He did exceptionally well at the university and set records for things like strikeouts, and then in the next year, he'd break his previous record, setting then a new one. Scouts in Major League Baseball look at the frame of the man, literally, his physical body. Justin had the size, still does, and the scouts surely saw, to become a Big League starting pitcher. Oh you do not have to be six foot five, but if you are, then there is a chance you may be very durable. Justin was and is.

He was drafter very highly by the Detroit Tigers. He was the second pick over-all. He proved the Tigers scouts to be about their own game well. As he surely has panned out as expected for Detroit. Justin barely ever saw the minor leagues, he was in the Major Leagues pitching for the Tigers in his very first professional season. Oh, he lost the two starts he got with Detroit in 2005, but the next season he'd show us all what he could do.

Rookie of the Year

In 2006 Justin Verlander put up an terrific win/loss record. He won 17 games, and lost just 9. He wasn't striking out Big League hitters at the rate of a power pitcher. He struck-out just 124 in his 186 innings.

There is little doubt he was being shut down innings wise. This is just the way of the game nowadays. Still, 186 innings is a large workload for a rookie. And Verlander had never seen that many innings pitched in a year before.

Another statistical oddity, and baseball is a sport where statistics are something like religion, happened in June. At a game against Oakland's Athletics in their stadium, Justin, Joel Zumaya, and Fernando Rodney all threw multiple pitches over 100 miles per hour. The first time this was recorded to have happened, that three men from the same team hit 100 mph in a game.

The Tigers made the post season that year, and then the World Series. Justin Verlander got a start in a World Series in his rookie season. But the Tigers did not win.

Justin Verlander in 2008


Justin Verlander throws a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007

Verlander becomes a true rotation Ace

For all intents and practical purposes Justin Verlander became the Ace of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff in his second Big League season. He pitched over 200 innings, and nearly reached the 200 strikeout mark. He won 18 games that year.

But maybe the most impressive thing was Justin threw a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers on the 12th day of June. In the game, he struck out 12 batters, and threw fastballs clocked at 102 miles per hour.

Watching the highlights from the no-hitter, you see a no-hitter is truly a team accomplishment. Baseball is a team sport, of course. Verlander dazzles with a huge breaking ball, and that monster power fastball, but there are some outstanding fielding plays by his team-mates which make it all possible.

As good a season as Justin had in 2007, he did not have a great season in 2008. In fact, he led the American League in loses in 2008. Just like Corey Kluber, another man with a Verlander type of ability, led the American League in losses last year after winning the Cy Young award the previous season. These things happen.

Again, baseball is a team sport. So that Verlander led the AL in losses in 2008, the blame can't be entirely on Verlander, but the truth is Justin didn't have the same greatness on the mount in 2008. His earned run average was rather inflated from the previous season. But he pitched over 200 innings in 2008. He provided great value to his team.

In 2009 Verlander would return to dominate American League hitters with a vengeance. He'd win 19 games, while losing 9. This gave him a great winning percentage of .679, the highest he'd had since 2007 when he won fewer games, but had a .750 winning percentage.

In 2009 Verlander would lead the American League with his 19 wins. He'd also lead The American League in innings pitched with 240 innings, and strikeouts with 269. You would think he'd have won the Cy Young award that year, but he did not. He was beat out by both Zack Greinke in the Cy Young award for Greinke's superlative earned run average, and runner up was Felix Hernandez.

Verlander was in his prime now though, he was nearly superhuman for a stretch of four years. In 2010 he became a very wealthy man, as the Tigers signed him to a large contract. The kind of contract you'd have to be a fool to ever see a poor day in your life after signing. And Justin is far from retired. He'd win 18 games and lose 9 in 2010. But it would be the next season when Justin would shine the brightest.

Justin Verlander 2nd Career No Hitter - May 7th, 2011

2011, Justin Verlander wins the triple crown in pitching, the Cy Young, and the AL MVP

In 2011 Verlander would put everything together. He was absolutely on top of the world. He was the kind of pitcher that made you feel sorry for the batters in the batters box. He seemed to be able to do whatever he wanted to do with every batter.

He'd record his 1,000th strikeout for his career. He also pitched another no-hitter. A lot of great pitchers never throw a no-hitter. The game was an odd one in some ways, Verlander wasn't striking out many batters. But he carried a perfect game into the 9th inning. He lost the perfect game, but he recorded the no-hitter. But the no-hitter against Toronto's Blue Jays that year wasn't nearly the only game where it looked as though there wouldn't be any hits, he flirted with no-hitters many times that season.

Verlander would make his 4th All Star team, but he'd not participate due to scheduling and where the All Star game fell after his last start. Before the end of August, he'd already have 20 wins. He'd wind up with the triple crown in pitching, Leading the American league in wins with 24, strikeouts with 250, and earned run average, 2,40. Oddly enough, Clayton Kershaw had also won the triple crown for pitching in the National League; and this was the first time there's been duel triple crown of pitching winners since 1924. But Verlander also led the American League in innings pitched, and winning percentage.

Justin Verlander with friend Kate Upton

Celebrity pitcher Verlander had his own cereal at one point


Justin Verlander 2012-2014 with Detroit Tigers

Verlander continued the next season (2012) pitching at the same level as before, but after the All Star break, he seemed to have got tired. He was the starting pitcher in the All Star game, but got bombed. For the season he again led the American League in innings pitched, strikeouts, and he placed second in earned run average. His won/loss record was 17 wins and 8 loses.

The Tigers were a winning team that year, and went to the playoffs, and all the way to the World Series again. Verlander had a winning start in the AL Division series, and another in the AL Championship series. But when he started game one of the World Series, he did not do well at all. For the year, he'd place second in the AL Cy Young voting to David Price.

In 2013 Verlander would become the highest paid pitcher in MLB history, but only for the time being. He made his 6th consecutive opening day start for the Tigers, and made the All Star team again. His numbers for the season, however, declined dramatically. Again, baseball is a team sport, and the pitcher in the American League doesn't get to contribute offensively except in inter-league play, and Verlander isn't Madison Bumgarner with a bat in hand anyway.

For the season he'd win 13 and lose 12. He'd have nearly one strikeout per inning, but his total innings were the lowest they'd been since 2008, and the total was just 217 innings. This is a fine total for most starting pitchers, but not for what was expected out of superstar workhorse Justin Verlander.

The Tigers again went into the post-season, and Verlander shut down the Athletics of Oakland in his start against them. Then in game 5 of the AL Division series Verlander helped his team to the AL Championship series. Following the season Verlander underwent core muscle surgery, to repair existing abdominal injuries which had been wearing him down.

Verlander, known for his strong work ethic and his never ending desire to be competitive, to be the best of the best, was ready for the following spring training, but was unlikely to be fully healed. In 2014 Verlander would turn in another workhorse season, he was just no longer looking like the dominating power arm power pitcher he'd once been. Perhaps he wasn't recovered from the surgery. Perhaps the Tigers had over used Justin over the years. All those pitches and innings were catching up with him, was the prevailing thought.

But MLB pitchers used to regularly throw more pitches and innings than even Verlander had done. In any case at all, the truth was he had lost several miles per hour off of his glorious fastball, and so he wasn't striking out hitters so often any more. Other scouts say he was throwing his slider too much, instead of his outstanding curve-ball.

He did better in the second half of the 2014 season. Was this recovery from the core muscle surgery? He finished the season with a won/loss record of 15 wins and 12 losses. His 159 strikeouts were alarming in that his rate per 9 innings was very very low for Justin Verlander. 6.9 punch-outs for ever 9 innings.

Justin Verlander in 2015


Justin Verlander in 2015 and beyond

Verlander spent a significant portion of the 2015 season on the disabled list. But the man needed some rest, and he got it. When he did return in 2015, he was looking a lot more like the Justin Verlander who'd won Rookie of the Year so long ago, or even the Verlander who'd won Cy Young awards, and then placed highly in the voting for that award in other years.

He was flirting with no-hitters again, and he was striking out batters again. The second half of the 2015 season was nothing if not a huge good sign for the Detroit Tigers starting rotation, and for Justin Brooks Verlander.

Sure, he's maybe lost a little from that fastball that once could top out at 102 miles per hour. But he could and did still reach back and throw balls at 98 miles per hour, and when you can do that, you can be the ace of nearly any pitching staff in Major League Baseball. Especially when you have a lollipop 12 to 6 O'clock knee buckler curve-ball, and a great change of pace.

Justin is only 33 years of age, and won't be 34 until the 2017 season. He's wiser in baseball sense than ever before, and even if he only has 7/8ths of the physical ability he once had, that is enough to be a Cy Young candidate this year, and don't be surprised if he shows himself to have ALL the physical ability he had in years past. I hope the best for Justin Verlander, and you should too. Thanks for reading.

Justin Verlander | 2015 Highlights HD


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