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Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Slower stuff key to Verlander domination



Getty Images/Leon Halip
Justin Verlander pitched in a manner that opponents have rarely seen previously.
Justin Verlander lived up to his billing on Monday Night Baseball, striking out 14 in the Detroit Tigers win over the Yankees. That total tied the most by a Tigers pitcher against the New York Yankees.

The other two pitchers happen to be in the Hall of Fame—Hal Newhouser and Jim Bunning.

Let’s take a closer look at Verlander’s start.

The History
The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Verlander became the third pitcher to strike out at least 14 batters and allow no earned runs in a start against the Yankees.

The other two are Jim Shaw of the 1914 Washington Senators and Chuck Finley for the 1995 California Angels

How Verlander Won
Verlander relied on his changeup and curveball more than usual, throwing those pitches a combined 45 percent of the time. He’s only had two starts in the last four seasons in which he threw those pitches more frequently.

Verlander had four strikeouts on both his changeup and curveball, the first time in his career he had at least four on each of those pitches. Three of his changeup strikeouts were swinging and three of his curveball strikeouts were looking.

Verlander's curveball helped set up his other pitches. Seven of his 14 strikeouts came after he threw a curveball on the previous pitch, including three via his changeup.

As for his usual heat, it was there, though not as often as most are used to seeing. He threw 67 fastballs in his 132 pitches. The 51 percent usage was his lowest percentage in 13 career starts against the Yankees.

The fastball averaged 92 miles-per-hour the first time through the order and 95 mph after that. He hit 100 mph on his 130th pitch, the last fastball he threw.

Trend of the Day
This kind of performance was nothing new for Verlander.

The chart on the right shows how Verlander has fared against teams with .500 or better records.

He’s one of a small group who are better against winning teams than against teams with losing records.

The Supporting Cast
For the fourth time this season and the third time in the last 11 days, both Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera homered in the same game.

Fielder has hit the ball in the air more frequently in the second half of the season. He’s increased his combined rate of fly balls and line drives from 57 percent in the first half to 63 percent presently.

The kind of strength it takes for a hitter to muscle out a home run on a knee-high pitch on the outer-third is unusual. Fielder’s home run against Ivan Nova was his third such home run on a pitch this season.

The only player with more home runs of that type this season is Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker with five.

Cabrera’s home run came on an 0-2 pitch and was measured at 454 feet. It’s the second home run that traveled at least 450 feet on an 0-2 pitch. Kevin Youkilis hit one 451 feet earlier this year.