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Thursday, July 26, 2012
Tribe no longer Verlander's kryptonite

By Jeremy Mills and Katie Sharp, ESPN Stats & Information


Getty ImagesJustin Verlander is one of three pitchers going for 12 wins today.
Three pitchers – A.J. Burnett, Wade Miley and Justin Verlander – are going for their 12th win today. Let’s take a look at how each pitcher got to this point.

Justin Verlander
Verlander is probably the least surprising name on this list. Since his rookie season in 2006, his 118 wins are the most among all major league pitchers.

Last year Verlander led the majors with 24 wins, the most by an AL pitcher since Bob Welch had 27 in 1990. Verlander is nearly on the same pace as last year, when he had 12 wins through his first 20 starts of the season.

But it might be difficult for Verlander to repeat that performance. After losing in his 21st start last year, he went undefeated the rest of 2011, going 12-0 in his final 13 starts en route to the Cy Young and MVP awards.

Tonight Verlander faces a Cleveland Indians team that had given him problems early in his career, which he seems to have solved recently. After going 4-10 with a 6.70 ERA against the Indians from 2005 to '08, he is 9-2 with a 2.84 ERA since then.

Wade Miley
At this point last season, Miley was in Reno, Nev., pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks' Triple-A squad. Miley made the big league rotation out of spring training this year and so far has been a legitimate NL Rookie of the Year candidate.

He leads all NL rookies in nearly every pitching stat and has allowed more than four runs just once in 19 starts.

Miley relies heavily on his fastball (73 percent of pitches) but also has a nasty slider that is among the best in the majors.

He consistently is able to locate the pitch down and away from hitters, generating swings on nearly half of those pitches thrown out of the zone.

A.J. Burnett
Burnett might be the most surprising name on this list. He was 21-26 from 2010 to '11 with the New York Yankees, during which he became the first pitcher in Yankees history to pitch at least 150 innings and post an ERA above 5.00 in back-to-back seasons.

After a trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the offseason, Burnett has relied more on his defense this season, and the transition has paid off. His ground ball rate of 57.4 percent is the fourth highest in the majors and his ground ball BABIP of .187 ranks eighth-lowest among NL starters.

Despite pitching to contact more this year, Burnett still remains a power pitcher with a knee-buckling curveball. Only Adam Wainwright has more strikeouts on a curve than Burnett’s 53, and no pitcher has generated more swings-and-misses with his hook than the 99 that Burnett has this season.