A window into Verlander's dominance

Updated: August 6, 2011, 9:52 AM ET
By Buster Olney

The other day, in the midst of Brad Penny's start against the Rangers, Justin Verlander noted Penny's use of a split-fingered fastball to catcher Alex Avila, and mentioned that there might come a day when he would have to develop a splitter of his own.

The suggestion amused Avila. Verlander, after all, already has refined four pitches -- his fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. "The way he's been pitching this year," Avila said, "he'll throw almost any pitch in any count."

And in any count, he has been dominant. With most pitchers, a count of two balls and no strikes or 3-1 means that the advantage has swung to the hitter, who can reasonably anticipate a fastball. In the past, Avila said, Verlander would tend to throw a 96 mph fastball "right down the middle."

But now he's using off-speed pitches in those counts, or commanding his fastball so well that he's nicking the corners for strikes. In this way, Verlander has still managed to control at-bats after reaching those hitters' counts, as these statistics from ESPN Stats & Info's Zachary Singer show: