Stats & Info: Justin Verlander

Verlander's struggles continue

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17

AP Photo/Carlos OsorioJustin Verlander has allowed at least five earned runs in six of his past seven starts.
Justin Verlander has seen much better days in his career. The Detroit Tigers hurler gave up seven earned runs on 12 hits to the Royals on Monday, which tied or set season worsts.

Season-long struggles for Verlander
Monday’s outing is representative of Verlander’s struggles all season. For the first time in his career, he has allowed seven or more earned runs in consecutive starts. He’s now allowed at least five earned runs in six of his past seven starts, posting a 7.83 ERA and a 1.85 WHIP in that span.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Verlander joins Gaylord Perry as the only former Cy Young winners to allow at least five earned runs in six starts in a seven-start span (Perry did it in seven straight in 1975).

Verlander has allowed at least five earned runs in six of his 15 starts this season. Last season, he allowed five or more earned runs six times over 34 starts. Since winning the American League Cy Young and MVP in 2011, Verlander has allowed five earned runs in a higher percentage of his starts each season.

Verlander’s nemesis and declining fastball
One of the biggest plays in the game came when Billy Butler hit a three-run double off of Verlander in the fifth inning to put the Royals up for good. Butler has dominated Verlander historically, as his 33 hits, .434 career batting average and 14 RBIs against Verlander are the best of any player (minimum 30 plate appearances).

The pitch Butler doubled off Verlander was a low-and-inside fastball. In nine at-bats against Verlander this season, Butler has three hits, all of which came off fastballs.

Verlander has not been able to overpower opposing batters with his fastball the way he used to, as he’s allowed a .307 batting average with his fastball this season, all the way up from .215 in his Cy Young campaign in 2011.

Over the past six seasons, Verlander has lost a lot of life off his fastball. In 2009, Verlander’s average fastball velocity was 95.6 mph, second-best in the majors and best in the American League. This season, he’s down to 92.6 mph, which is outside of the top 25 qualified pitchers in MLB.

Sanchez, Tigers starters dominate ALCS

October, 17, 2013

Al Bello/Getty Images
Anibal Sanchez gets the ball for Game 6 after holding the Red Sox hitless for six innings in Game 1.

The Detroit Tigers evened the ALCS up at two games apiece with their 7-3 victory Wednesday night.

Now, they get a chance to go up 3-2 on the Boston Red Sox as they send Anibal Sanchez to the mound in Game 5 tonight.

In his Game 1 start, Sanchez threw six no-hit innings before being removed in Detroit’s 1-0 victory. He was the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least six innings and be pulled with a no-hitter intact.

He’s also the fourth pitcher in MLB postseason history to go at least six innings without allowing a hit. In two of the others, the pitcher went on to complete the no-hitter (Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay in the 2010 NLDS). The third instance was in the 1999 ALDS, when Pedro Martinez threw six hitless innings in relief.

How was Sanchez able to dominate Red Sox hitters? By getting them to chase pitches with two strikes.

Red Sox hitters chased 41 percent of pitches in two-strike counts in Game 1, compared to just 17 percent before two strikes. Seven of his 12 strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone.

It wasn’t just Sanchez flustering Boston hitters in Game 1, but the Tigers bullpen did its part as well, allowing one hit in three shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts.

In the game, Tigers pitchers struck out 17 Red Sox batters, tying the record for most strikeouts by a staff in a nine-inning postseason game.

The Detroit pitching dominance has been a continuing theme in the series. The four-man staff of Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister has combined for 42 strikeouts in the first four games of the series.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the most strikeouts for a team’s starters in the first four games of any series in postseason history. In addition, that group's total of one run allowed per nine innings pitched (3 R in 27 IP) is the second-lowest for any starting staff through the first four games of a League Championship Series.

The only staff with a better mark in an LCS was... last year’s Tigers, whose staff allowed two runs in the first 27 1/3 innings pitched.

In the two ALCS, those four Tigers starters have combined for a 5-1 record, with a 0.83 ERA, .146 opponents’ batting average and more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.

Red Sox win is both amazing and unlikely

October, 15, 2013
For a team to beat Justin Verlander when he’s pitching as he has in this season-ending stretch is a major challenge.

But the Boston Red Sox are familiar with such tasks, given their comeback from five runs down in Game 2 of the ALCS.

In their 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers in Game 3, they managed to do just enough to win.

Napoli comes through
Mike Napoli was 2-for-19 in the postseason and 0-for-6 with six strikeouts in the ALCS before before his seventh-inning homer put the Red Sox ahead.

The home run came on a 96-mph fastball. In the last two seasons, Napoli homered only once against the more than 200 pitches he saw that were thrown at least 96 mph-- against Evan Reed of the Tigers on Sept. 4.

Verlander could not have been much better
Verlander finally allowed a run, ending his scoreless streak at 34 innings and his postseason scoreless streak at 21 innings.

He has an 0.39 ERA and 0.57 WHIP with 31 strikeouts and three walks in his three starts this postseason. The Tigers are 1-2 in those games.

Verlander struck out 10 in defeat. His six double-digit strikeout games are a postseason record. He’s also the first pitcher in postseason history with 10 or more strikeouts and four or fewer hits allowed in three straight games.

Turning Point: Cabrera and Fielder strike out
The Tigers had a great opportunity to score in the eighth inning, but relievers Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to escape the jam.

Cabrera had nine swinging strikes in the game. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is a single-game career-high for Cabrera in either the regular season or postseason.

A brief history of 1-0 postseason games
This was the 46th 1-0 game in postseason history. It was the fourth 1-0 game this postseason, matching the most in a single postseason (there were also four in 1991).

There were only three 1-0 postseason games in the last 11 years.

This was the third 1-0 postseason win for the Red Sox in their history, with the other two being in Game 1 of the 1918 and 1986 World Series.

The Tigers had never lost a 1-0 postseason game until this year and now they’ve become the first AL team to lose two in the same postseason (the 1991 Pirates and Braves are the most recent teams to lose two). Both losses came in games started by Verlander.

This was the first 1-0 postseason game decided by a home run since Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, when Jorge Posada homered to give the Yankees a 1-0 win over the Athletics (better known as the Derek Jeter “flip” game). It’s the first time the Red Sox won a postseason game in such a fashion and the first time the Tigers lost a postseason game in such a fashion.

Game 3 of the ALCS was very similar to Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, when the visiting Yankees beat the Braves, 1-0.

Parallels include:

• The Yankees rallied from six runs down to win the previous game. The Red Sox rallied from five down to win their previous game.

• The Yankees beat a pitcher who would win the Cy Young that season in John Smoltz. The Red Sox beat a pitcher who has previously won the Cy Young in Verlander. Verlander is the first pitcher to lose a game in which he allowed one run and struck out at least 10 since Smoltz that day.

• The Yankees survived a situation in which the Braves had a man on third with one out in the ninth inning. The Red Sox escaped a situation in which the Tigers had a man on third with one out in the eighth inning.

The Yankees went on to win that series without losing again.

The Red Sox have a little ways to go to match that.

Verlander gets an A for his accolades

October, 11, 2013
Justin Verlander owns the Oakland Athletics. Miguel Cabrera used to own the inside of the plate -- until recently.

For one night, those two came together to combine on a win that pushed their team, the Detroit Tigers, into the American League Championship Series for the third straight year. They're the first AL team to reach three straight ALCS' since the Yankees did so from 1998 to 2001.

Verlander untouchable
Verlander is now 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA against the Athletics in the postseason (4-0, 0.29 ERA in five starts against them). He’s 3-4 with a 5.14 ERA against all other postseason foes.

Verlander has thrown 30 consecutive scoreless innings against the Athletics in postseason play. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is a record for one pitcher against one team. The previous mark was 28 innings by Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants against the Athletics from 1905 to 1911.

Verlander is the second pitcher in major league history with 10 or more strikeouts and no runs allowed in back-to-back postseason games.

The other was Sandy Koufax in Games 5 and 7 of the 1965 World Series.

Verlander is one of four starters with multiple wins in winner-take-all postseason games, along with Bob Gibson, Chris Carpenter and Matt Cain.

He is also the only pitcher to have multiple postseason-clinching wins in which he went at least eight scoreless innings and struck out at least 10. They came in the 2012 and 2013 ALDS against the Athletics.

Only two other pitchers have one such win: Orval Overall for the 1908 Cubs against the Tigers and Sandy Koufax for the 1965 Dodgers against the Twins.

Verlander’s five postseason games with at least 10 strikeouts tie the record for most all-time. He shares the mark with Randy Johnson, Bob Gibson and Cliff Lee.

Verlander's no-hit bid went 6 2/3 innings, the longest no-hit bid in a winner-take-all game in postseason history.

The previous longest was 5 2/3 innings by Ralph Terry for the New York Yankees against the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series.

It's the longest no-hit AND perfect-game bids (5 1/3 innings) in Tigers postseason history.

How he won
Verlander was lights-out, getting 24 swings and misses, which matched his most in any start over the last five seasons. He got 18 swings and misses with his fastball, his most in any start over the last five seasons.

That’s tied for the most missed swings against a fastball in a postseason start in that span, matching the 18 by Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants against the Atlanta Braves in 2010.

Afterward, Verlander said that he had his best changeup in a while. He was right.

Verlander held Athletics left-handed hitters to 1-for-20 in this game, helped by his throwing 12 of 17 changeups for strikes. His 71 percent strike rate was his best against lefties with that pitch in nearly two months.

Grade A
Verlander had a Bill James Game Score of 87 in this win, the third-best by any pitcher in a winner-take-all postseason game.

The only pitchers better are Verlander himself, who scored an 89 against the Athletics in Game 5 of last year’s ALDS, and Koufax for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series.

Cabrera finally gets ahold of one
If you read the Stats & Info preview for this game, you’d have known just how badly Cabrera was struggling against pitches thrown between where he stood in the batter’s box and the midpoint of home plate (i.e., the inner half).

It only took one pitch for Cabrera to erase that, with his first home run since September 17. His two-run shot gave him 21 RBIs with the Tigers in postseason play. He’s one shy of the franchise record, set by Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, who didn’t have the benefit of playing in an LDS or LCS.

Rookie pitchers, of which Athletics starter Sonny Gray is one, have now lost their last six winner-take-all postseason games.

Stat of the Night
The Athletics have lost six straight winner-take-all postseason games. That’s the longest such losing streak in postseason history.

Stats to know: Tigers vs. Athletics (Game 5)

October, 10, 2013

Getty ImagesJustin Verlander (left) and Sonny Gray (right) struck out at least 9 and allowed zero runs in Game 2.
The Detroit Tigers visit the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of the ALDS tonight (8:07 ET/ESPN Radio). Detroit is 2-0 in ALDS Game 5s (2011 and '12) and is looking to advance to the ALCS for the third straight season (would be first team to do that since the 1998-2001 New York Yankees).

Oakland is 0-5 all-time in ALDS Game 5s and will be looking to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2006. The A’s were eliminated by the Tigers in their past two trips to the postseason (2006, 2012).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Oakland is 1-11 since 2000 in games in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent from a postseason series.

Let’s take a look at some other storylines for this game.

History Lesson
This will be the seventh time that two teams have met in a winner-take-all postseason game in consecutive years.

The last time it happened, the Boston Red Sox and Yankees met in consecutive Game 7s of the ALCS in 2003 and 2004.

The last team to win the first meeting and the rematch was the Yankees, who beat the Athletics in consecutive ALDS Game 5s in 2000 and 2001.

The team that won the first winner-take-all won the rematch three times and lost the rematch three times in the first six instances.

Justin Verlander stats to know
Verlander has thrown three straight scoreless starts dating back to the regular season, with 33 strikeouts in 19 innings, including 11 in the Game 2 duel in Oakland.

He has faced Oakland three times in the ALDS in the past two seasons, going 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA. In those 23 innings pitched, he’s struck out 33 and walked six while allowing just 11 hits.

In his Game 2 start against Oakland, Verlander relied on his fastball and curveball to put hitters away. He threw 20 fastballs and 16 curveballs among his 42 two-strike pitches, his second-highest combined percentage (85.7) with those pitches this season. All 11 of his strikeouts came on those pitches.

Sonny Gray stats to know
Gray’s eight scoreless innings in Game 2 against the Tigers marked the fourth time that a starter has thrown eight scoreless frames in the 67 postseason games the Tigers have played since 1968. The other three are Bob Gibson (1968 Cardinals), Blue Moon Odom (1972 Athletics) and Chris Carpenter (2006 Cardinals).

Like Verlander, Gray relied on his fastball and curveball in Game 2. All but two of his 111 pitches were fastballs (80) or curveballs (29). That was his second-highest combined percentage (98.2) with those pitches in 11 career starts.

Nineteen of the 24 outs Gray recorded were via strikeout (nine) or groundout (10). None of his 10 groundouts came on fastballs, and five of his nine strikeouts came on his curve.

In that game, Gray became the second rookie on postseason history with at least eight scoreless innings and nine strikeouts in his first career postseason start, joining the Orioles’ Mike Boddicker in 1983. Boddicker had 27 career regular season starts under his belt while Gray had just 10.

The Big Bats: Cespedes and Cabrera
The big hitters for each team, Yoenis Cespedes and Miguel Cabrera, have had contrasting performances with regards to a specific pitch location.

Cespedes is 7-for-18 in the series, with the bulk of that damage (five hits, including a homer) coming on pitches on the inner half of the plate.

Meanwhile Cabrera, who is 4-for-16 in the series and is battling injuries, has struggled to drive the inner-half pitches that he was crushing earlier this season.

Through the end of August, Cabrera had a .401 batting average and 27 home runs against pitches thrown to the inner half of the plate or off the inside corner.

But since the start of September, Cabrera has only 10 singles against such pitches, against which he is hitting .244. He has two hits versus such pitches in this series, both infield singles.

Justin Havens also contributed to this article.

Vogt's clutch hit breaks scoreless tie

October, 6, 2013
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsStephen Vogt’s first career postseason hit was a walk-off hit.
Stephen Vogt only had 34 career regular-season hits. Appearing in his first postseason, he had no postseason hits.

But his first career postseason hit was quite the notable one, as his RBI single gave the Oakland Athletics a 1-0 walk-off win to tie their Division Series with the Detroit Tigers at 1-1.

Vogt is the first player with a walk-off hit as his first career postseason hit since Carlos Guillen in 2000 for the Seattle Mariners against the Chicago White Sox, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Vogt's 34 career regular-season hits are the second-fewest by any player at the time of a postseason walk-off hit. The only player with fewer was George Vukovich, who had 23 career regular-season hits at the time of his walk-off, in the 1981 NLDS for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Montreal Expos.

Vogt is the seventh player in MLB postseason history with a walk-off hit to break a scoreless tie. The last player to do so was Jeff Kent for the Houston Astros in the 2004 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Athletics are the eighth team in MLB postseason history with a walk-off win to break a scoreless tie (in addition to the seven hits listed in the chart on the right, the Astros won with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 1980 NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies).

The Athletics' 1-0 walk-off win was the first 1-0 walk-off win in an MLB postseason game since Gene Larkin's walk-off single for the Minnesota Twins to win the 1991 World Series.

Don’t forget about the pitching
There was a reason why the game was scoreless in the ninth inning -- great pitching.

Justin Verlander struck out 11 batters in seven innings, while Sonny Gray struck out nine in eight innings.

Verlander and Max Scherzer are the first pair of teammates in postseason history with at least 11 strikeouts in back-to-back games.

Gray is the fifth rookie pitcher in postseason history with at least eight scoreless innings in his first career postseason start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Gray is one of two rookie pitchers in history (Mike Boddicker, 1983 White Sox) with at least eight scoreless innings and nine strikeouts in his first career postseason start.

It was the first game in postseason history in which both starters had at least nine strikeouts and no runs allowed.

What's wrong with Prince Fielder?

August, 13, 2013

Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesSince signing with Detroit, Fielder has struggled at the plate, mainly against right-handed pitching.
There is no shortage of major stroylines surrounding the AL-Central leading Detroit Tigers this season. Miguel Cabrera is en route to another MVP-caliber season. Max Scherzer's is breaking out as an ace. Justin Verlander's uncharacteristic struggles have been well documented. Those have pushed Prince Fielder's struggles to the back seat.

2013 has been a massive disappointment for Fielder, whose OPS sits at a pedestrian .784 entering Tuesday. With the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians on the Tigers' tail, Fielder's play could go a long way towards Detroit holding them off and securing a postseason spot.

It's a growing concern considering how much Detroit is due to pay for his future services. Only two players are owed more money starting next season than Fielder, as the Tigers owe him $168 million through the 2020 season.

His current OPS of .784 would be his worst over a full season by nearly 50 points, and a drop of over 150 points from just last season.

Fielder ranks 230th among position players in Wins Above Replacement – entering Tuesday, he’s been worth 0.6 WAR. What specific issues have plagued Fielder this season? Let’s take a look.

Issue No. 1: No longer punishing righties
As a left-handed batter, Fielder has long feasted on right-handed pitching. That is anything but the case this year, as his ability to hit for power has diminished considerably against righties.

Specifically, righties appear to be having a great deal more success throwing offspeed stuff to Fielder, as he’s swinging-and-missing far more often against soft stuff from righties.

This season, Fielder is slugging .456 against offspeed pitches from righties while swinging and missing about a third of the time. In 2011, he led the majors with a .654 slugging percentage on offspeed pitches while swinging-and-missing only 24 percent of the time.

Issue No 2: Getting Beat by Fastballs
Regardless of righty or lefty, Fielder is getting beat by fastballs this season. He’s slugging only .404 (115th in the majors) against those pitches. Just two seasons ago, Fielder feasted on heaters, slugging .607 against them, 16th among all players.

Odds and Ends
Oddly enough, Fielder is still hitting the ball hard. A check of data provided by Sportvision/MLBAM showed that as of a week ago, the average speed of a ball hit in the air off Fielder’s bat was 83.5 mph, which was up nearly two MPH from last season and up five MPH from 2010.

Not surprisingly, Fielder has seen a decline in his power numbers since moving from Milwaukee's Miller Park to Detroit's Comerica Park.

In Detroit, he’s slugging .504 while hitting a home run every 19.4 at bats. In seven seasons in Milwaukee, Fielder slugged .566 while hitting a homer every 13.9 at bats.

Fielder's power has been sapped particularly when he hits the ball in the air straightaway or to the left side of second base. He had 43 homers to that part of the park from 2009 to 2011, but has only 10 (including three in 2013) over the last two seasons.

Verlander's fastball not what it once was

July, 20, 2013
Justin Verlander's velocity has been trending downwards.

For a couple of starts at the end of June/early July, it looked like Justin Verlander had regained the fastball velocity that had been lower than normal in 2013.

But in his last two starts prior to the All-Star Break, Verlander’s heater has dropped again in speed.

Sometimes the pitch is still effective, like in his last start against the Texas Rangers, in which he took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning before departing with a tight quadriceps muscle.

But more often than not, it has failed to be the dominant pitch with which Detroit Tigers fans are familiar. Even in that game against the Rangers, Texas hitters had four well-struck fly outs against fastballs that Tigers outfielders were able to track down.

Opponents have a .299/.388/.460 slashline against Verlander's fastball, all numbers that would be his worst over the last five seasons if they held up for the duration of the season.

One of the things that has made Verlander so good is that he has four pitches with which he can finish off hitters. But Verlander has already allowed almost as many hits with his two-strike heater (31) as he did the last two seasons (36 in 2011, 33 in 2012).

Opponents have a .277 batting average against Verlander’s two-strike fastballs and have missed on 13 percent of their swings. By comparison, last year opponents hit .176 and missed on 20 percent of their swings against that pitch.

Verlander’s fastball isn’t the only pitch in his repertoire to suffer this season. His offspeed pitches have gotten hit, yielding four home runs, the same total he allowed with them last season. Opponents are hitting .218 against his breaking balls and changeup, 42 points higher than from 2009 to 2012.

Looking Ahead
Verlander has won his last six decisions against the Royals, whom he’ll face at 7 p.m. tonight.

He's 15-2 against them for his career, and Elias notes that the .882 winning percentage marks the fifth-best for any pitcher with at least 25 starts against a team in major-league history.
He’s gone at least seven innings and allowed three runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 starts against them.

In two starts against Kansas City this season, he’s allowed one earned run in 14 innings.

Keep an eye on how the Royals fare against his heater. The pitch has netted him 18 outs and yielded only three hits against Kansas City in those two games.

Mark Simon contributed research to this post

Rios attacks early, ends perfect

July, 10, 2013
ESPN Stats & InformationAlex Rios was 4-for-4 against Justin Verlander on Tuesday.
Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios did something on Tuesday that hadn’t been done in 20 years.

Rios became the first Major League Baseball player with at least six hits and two stolen bases in a game since 1993, when Sammy Sosa did it for the cross-town Chicago Cubs.

Rios is the fourth player in history with six hits and two stolen bases in a game, joining Sosa, Gene Richards and Max Carey. He’s the third player to go 6-for-6 with two stolen bases, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Rios is the first MLB player to go 6-for-6 since Adrian Gonzalez in 2009. He’s the first White Sox player to accomplish the feat since Lance Johnson in 1995.

As a team, the White Sox had 23 hits, the most by any team since the Colorado Rockies had 25 against the Houston Astros on September 25, 2011.

Rios’s first four hits came off Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander. According to Elias, Rios is the first player with four hits in a game off Verlander.

Rios saw a total of just six pitches in his four at-bats against Verlander, as he attacked early in the count.

Three of Rios’s four hits off Verlander came on fastballs down the middle early in the count. Two of them came on 0-1 pitches and one of them on the first pitch of the at-bat. His other hit off Verlander also came on the first pitch of the at-bat, on a slider down the middle in the lower half of the zone.

Verlander’s fastball did not have its usual life on Tuesday. He didn’t throw a pitch faster than 92 MPH to Rios and his average fastball velocity was 91.3 MPH, down considerably from the 93.9 MPH in his previous start on July 4.

Since June 1, Rios is hitting .423 with no strikes in the count. Before June 1, he was hitting .323 with no strikes this season. He has been more aggressive with no strikes over the last five-and-a-half weeks, as his swing percentage and miss percentage have both gone up. Rios’s aggressiveness has paid off in those situations.

Valverde Spoils a Verlander Gem

June, 12, 2013
The Detroit Tigers are at an impasse with their bullpen, specifically with closer Jose Valverde.

After another gem by Justin Verlander, Valverde surrendered a game-tying two-out, two-strike home run to Lorenzo Cain in the ninth inning in an eventual loss to the Kansas City Royals. How special was this start for Verlander? What exactly did Valverde do to spoil this effort?

How Justin Verlander Should Have Got the Win vs the Royals

Verlander had an overpowering fastball, fueled by superb movement. He got batters to swing at 38 percent of his fastballs thrown out of the zone, his highest fastball chase rate this season. Verlander’s fastball had its most movement of the season, setting season highs in both horizontal break (-7.4 inches) and vertical break (11.8 inches).

Verlander also kept hitters off balance, allowing zero "hard-hit" balls in play for the first time this season.

It’s the third time he has done that in a game over the last five seasons (also in 2009 and 2012).

To further illustrate how special this Verlander effort was, he did not face a batter with a runner in scoring position for the first time this season.

Royals were 0-for-8 and had five strikeouts with a man on first base against Verlander.

How Jose Valverde Blew the Save vs the Royals

Valverde pitched as pooly as Verlander pitched great. Cain's game-tying homer came on a splitter from Valverde, the only non-fastball he threw today.

Valverde has thrown 20 splitters in his last six games and allowed four homers among those 20 pitches. He allowed zero homers on the 21 splitters he threw in his first 12 appearances of the season.

Cain's homer also came on a pitch on the outer third of the strike zone. Righties were 1-13 (.077) vs Valverde in at-bats ending in a pitch thrown to that location this season before the homer, including a flyout by Salvador Perez for the first out of the ninth inning.


This was the sixth walk-off loss for the Tigers this season, tied with the Marlins and Mariners for most in the MLB.

Jose Valverde continues to struggle, as Wednesday marked his eighth blown save in last two seasons. In 2011, he was a perfect 49-for-49 on save opportunities.

This is the fifth time in his career that Justin Verlander has pitched at least seven scoreless innings and got a no-decision. No other Tigers pitcher in the Live Ball era (since 1920) has more than two such career games.

Verlander now has three losses in quality starts this season, already more than the two he had all last year.

Verlander's contract richest for a pitcher

March, 29, 2013

Mark Cunningham/Getty ImagesVerlander has led all starting pitchers in most statistical categories the past four seasons.
Since 2009, Justin Verlander ranks first in all of baseball in:

• Starts (135)
• Wins (78)
• WHIP (1.08)
• Strikeouts (977)
• WAR (26.0, highest among pitchers)

Those are just some of the reasons the Detroit Tigers rewarded Verlander with the richest contract for a pitcher. His $180 million deal is the largest for a pitcher in terms of total value -- $5 million more than what the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez signed for earlier this offseason.

The $180 million deal over seven years averages out to $25.7 million per season. The only pitcher in major-league history who had a higher average annual salary was Roger Clemens, but that's only because his $28 million "average" was the result of a one-year contract he signed with the New York Yankees in 2007.

Including the postseason, Verlander is the only pitcher since the start of 2009 who has thrown more than 1,000 innings (1,002⅓), and his 16,225 pitches are more than 1,000 more than the next closest pitcher, CC Sabathia.

Also since 2009, Verlander has hit 100 MPH on the radar gun 170 times (including 73 in the seventh inning or later). All other starting pitchers in the past four seasons have combined to throw just 109 pitches that have registered 100 MPH.

Verlander's Game Score since 2009 is 61.4, the highest in baseball. Game Score is a metric created by Bill James that measures the quality of a start. Every pitcher begins with a score of 50, and points are added for getting outs (with a bonus for strikeouts), and subtracted for baserunners and runs allowed. The typical major-league average is 49-51.

So while Verlander has the largest contract by a pitcher in major-league history, it's still not even the largest contract on his own team. When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder before last season, they gave him a deal nine-year deal worth $214 million.

Top stats to know: Detroit Tigers

March, 8, 2013

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesMiguel Cabrera became the 1st Triple Crown winner in baseball since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

The Detroit Tigers started slow in 2012, posting a 26-32 record before finishing the year with 88 wins and a playoff berth. Their postseason run came to a sudden halt, however, at the hands of the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. But the most memorable aspect of Detroit's season was the performance of Miguel Cabrera, who claimed the Triple Crown and the AL MVP.

Cabrera finished with 44 HR, 139 RBI and a .330 BA. Over the past 70 years, only two players had reached all three of those in a season: Manny Ramirez in 1999 and Todd Helton in 2001. Before that, other players to compile those numbers: Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Hack Wilson.

Born in Venezuela, Cabrera was the 1st Hispanic player ever to win the Triple Crown and also the 1st Triple Crown winner ever to be born outside of the U.S.

But Detroit will be relying on more than just his stellar play this season. A look at some others who should make an impact:

Austin Jackson

Outfielder Austin Jackson took a big step forward last season, posting an .856 OPS after recording a combined .718 OPS in 2010 and 2011. He's also striking out less frequently, with a strikeout rate of 21.7 percent last season compared to 26.1 in 2010 and 2011 combined.

He's also a considerable asset on defense. Among outfielders since 2010, Jackson's +47 in regards to defensive runs saved is behind only Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward in the majors.

Jackson had an all-around strong season, with a Wins Above Replacement of 5.2. As you can see by the table to the right, that was among the best at his position last year. At just 26 years old, he should be a major contributor for years to come.

Victor Martinez

DH Victor Martinez missed the entire 2012 season recovering from a knee injury, and his return this year could come as a huge boost. Martinez had six seasons with a .300 BA and .800 OPS from 2005-11, tied for the most in the majors during that span.

His 720 RBI between 2004 and 2011 also ranked 7th in the American League in that span.

AL MVP debate: What is WAR good for?

November, 15, 2012
As we continue to discuss the fascinating American League MVP race, here’s a bit more background on the statistic that is being used to largely frame the case for Mike Trout.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. It’s favored by many (including sabermetricians) because it is the best single statistic at this moment in accounting for a player’s all-around contributions -- not just batting, but base running and defense. And, it weights contributions in terms of their impact on creating (or preventing on defense) runs.

It is important to not confuse a "replacement" level player with an "average" player. Replacement players are more like a Triple-A/24th-25th man on a major-league roster. Studies show that a team full of replacement players would win about 45-50 games in a season. A team of average players would, of course, win 81 games (and lose 81 games). That is a huge difference.

Using’s version of WAR, Trout in 2012 had a WAR of 10.7 -- the highest by a position player since Barry Bonds’ 11.6 in 2002 (Bonds hit .370, 46 HR, .582 OBP, .799 Slug pct).

Miguel Cabrera’s WAR was 6.9, fourth in the American League behind Trout, Robinson Cano and Justin Verlander. Cabrera’s offensive WAR was second to Trout (8.6 to 7.4). When factoring in defense, Trout’s WAR improves by about two wins and Cabrera’s drops about one-half of a win.

Yes, Cabrera won the Triple Crown, and although WAR does not specifically use the Triple Crown statistics to power its run values, it should be noted that every Triple Crown winner also led his league in WAR by a position player with the exception of … Cabrera.

For those who cannot get enough on this topic, here are three recommended articles: WAR of the worlds for MVP, New York Times Nate Silver’s case against Cabrera and ESPN Insider Keith Law’s in-depth explanation for MVP.

AL Cy: Another big finish for best finisher?

November, 14, 2012

Leon Halip/Getty ImagesStaring down a pitch from Justin Verlander is never easy.
Will Justin Verlander win his second straight Cy Young Award?

Verlander is one of three finalists for the award, the winner of which will be announced Wednesday night.

Should Verlander win, he would be the first repeat Cy Young Award winner from the American League since Pedro Martinez in 2000 and the second to repeat for the Detroit Tigers, joining Denny McLain, who won in 1968 and 1969. Verlander and McLain would share a common bond of also having won an MVP award.

You could make the argument that Verlander’s 2012 was a duplicate of his 2011.

As the chart on the right shows, though Verlander’s win-loss record didn’t quite match up to the previous season, he was just as good in a number of other statistical categories.

Verlander may also get a spike for finishing with a flourish. He went 4-0 with an 0.64 ERA in his final four regular-season starts (remember that Cy Young ballots are turned in before the postseason begins).

Verlander has always been about the strong finish. His fastball this season averaged 93 mph in the first three innings, but 96 in the last three. Opponents slugged .436 against the pitch in those first three innings, but just .343 in the last three.

The right Price
Verlander’s chief rival for the award, Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price, also finished the season strong, and his flourish was of a longer length than Verlander.

Price went 12-1 with a 2.26 ERA over his final 18 starts, allowing three runs or fewer in 17 of those games. That included a stretch in which Price went 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA over seven starts spanning July 19 to August 21.

Price was deprived wins in two of those contests due to lack of run support. He allowed no runs in eight innings in each, but got no-decisions in 1-0 losses to the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

What changed for Price in the latter part of the season was the effectiveness of his breaking pitches. The chart on the right shows the difference in the success that Price had in finishing hitters with breaking balls.

Price’s impeccable control with all of his pitches was evident in his strikeout-to-walk numbers. In his first 13 starts, he struck out 78 and walked 30. In his last 18 starts, he had almost the same number of walks (29), but had 127 strikeouts.

Weaver limited damage
The other finalist, Los Angeles Angels starter Jered Weaver, didn’t have quite the dominating numbers of Price and Verlander, though he did make a credible case as an alternative choice.

Weaver tied Price for the AL wins lead and led the league in WHIP (1.02). He, too, finished the season on a high note, going 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA over a five-start stretch in the final month of the season.

Weaver might not have had quite the overpowering stuff of Price or Verlander, as his strikeout total was considerably lower than both. But he was able to do what any pitcher who wants to win the Cy Young hopes to do- limit hard contact.

Inside Edge, which does video tracking for major league teams and media, calculates the rate that pitchers allow hard-hit balls. Weaver’s 16.6 percent “hard-hit rate” is almost identical to that of both Verlander (16.4) and Price (16.7).

Sandoval puts himself in Giant company

October, 25, 2012
The opening game of the World Series was as easy for the San Francisco Giants as each of the three games it won to close out the National League Championship Series.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the Giants are the second team to win four straight games, all by at least five runs in a single postseason (the only other is the 2007 Boston Red Sox).

In doing so, they had little trouble with one of the game’s biggest pitching stars.

Let’s look at some of the keys to their Game 1 victory.

Pablo’s Picasso
Pablo Sandoval became the fourth player to hit three home runs in a World Series game, joining Babe Ruth (1926 and 1928), Reggie Jackson (1977) and Albert Pujols (2011).

Sandoval’s 13 total bases are the second-most ever in a World Series game, trailing only the 14 by Pujols against the Texas Rangers last season.

Sandoval is the first player to hit home runs in each of his first three plate appearances in a World Series game and the first to hit three home runs in Game 1 of any postseason series.

Each of the two home runs that Sandoval had against Justin Verlander came against 95-mph fastballs.

Sandoval has three home runs against 95-mph pitches in the past six days (he hit one against the St. Louis Cardinals' Mitchell Boggs in the LCS). Since the start of the 2010 season, he only has two regular-season home runs against pitches thrown that fast.

Verlander’s World Series struggles continue
Verlander, who had won his previous seven starts with a sub-1.00 ERA, was hit hard in Game 1.

Verlander became the first American League pitcher to lose his first three World Series starts since Lefty Williams of the 1919 White Sox. (Williams was banned from baseball for his role in the “Black Sox” scandal.)

For the second straight start, Verlander didn’t have his usual putaway stuff. He threw 38 two-strike pitches, but finished with only four strikeouts.

In the regular season, Verlander averaged a strikeout for every five two-strike pitches he threw.

The Giants did well when they laid off Verlander’s offspeed pitches. They watched 21 of them go by and only two of those were called strikes.

Sandoval’s second home run came on a fastball after he passed up at swinging at a pair of changeups that were off the plate.

In all, the Giants had four hits in the six at-bats that ended with a Verlander fastball.

Zito tames the Tigers
In addition to winning with his arm, Giants starter Barry Zito won with his bat.

He became the first pitcher to drive in a run in Game 1 of the World Series since Mike Cuellar for the 1969 Baltimore Orioles.

The Giants became the first team in postseason history to have their starting pitchers drive in a run in four straight postseason games.

In fact, their starting pitchers have twice as many RBIs in their past four postseason games as they do runs allowed (two).

As for his mound work, Zito had a sharp breaking ball. He threw 29 of his 40 breaking pitches for strikes.

The pitch neutralized ALCS MVP Delmon Young, who went after a pair of Zito breaking balls that were off the plate and grounded out both times, once into a double play.

Lincecum provides the needed relief
Tim Lincecum continued his run of fine relief work in this postseason, striking out five of the seven batters he retired.

Lincecum became the first reliever to pitch at least 2 1/3 innings of baserunner-free relief, with at least five strikeouts since Todd Worrell for the 1985 Cardinals.

Detroit Tigers hitters missed on seven of their 14 swings against Lincecum and only put two of his 32 pitches into play. They took six swings against his changeup and slider and whiffed on all six.

Scutaro’s supporting role
Marco Scutaro picked up where he left off in the NLCS by going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. He’s now 16-for-32 since Game 1 of the NLCS. He has an 11-game postseason hitting streak, tied for the longest in team history with Irish Meusel.

Scutaro continued his run of swinging without missing. He has gone 27 straight swings without missing on one. For the postseason, he has swung at 89 pitches, netting 17 hits and only two swings-and-misses.