Thursday, March 31, 2011
Will Verlander finally have that big season?
By David Schoenfield
I enjoy watching Justin Verlander pitch. It's not just that his average fastball was second-fastest in the majors last season (behind Ubaldo Jimenez) or that he can still crank it up to 98 in the eighth or ninth inning. He's got that lanky build, kind of a slingshot motion, with great movement on both his fastball and breaking ball, that makes him look unhittable and a unique presence on the mound.
He's an excellent pitcher (he's received Cy Young votes in four of his five seasons), so I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but ... there's a nagging twitch in my brain that says Verlander could be a little better. He hasn't had that monster season that it seems everyone keeps waiting for, that King Felix or Roy Halladay year; he's never had a sub-3.00 ERA, his career ERA is closer to 4.00 than 3.50. He throws strikes, keeps the home runs to a minimum and has the dominant stuff, so we keep waiting.
He had two runners on in the bottom of the sixth, and was approaching 110 pitches. Jim Leyland visited the mound with Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada due up. (That Yankee lineup is a killer with all those switch-hitters.) Verlander gets Swisher looking (he gripes to the ump as he walks to the dugout) and then blows away Posada with a 3-2 high-octane heater.
Maybe this is will be that year.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter at @dschoenfield. Follow the SweetSpot blog at @espn_sweet_spot.