The Idea and Reality of Justin Verlander

“In the end, the Tigers are just too strong in too many areas, and they have the X factor at the top of their rotation. Verlander is this year’s Orel Hershiser of ’88 vintage, capable of winning two games each series, no questions asked.” – Larry Stone, Seattle Times.

“He was the most pivotal player in the league, dominating on the days he pitched and having a significant impact on the Detroit bullpen the day before he pitched and the two days afterward.” – Buster Olney, ESPN

You don’t have to do much googling to find a column praising the dominance of Justin Verlander. In fact, a search for “Justin Verlander” + dominant will return 561,000 results. There’s no arguing that Verlander is one of the game’s elite pitchers – no matter what perspective you take, he’s great.

But, I’m starting to feel like the idea of Justin Verlander is becoming larger than the reality of Justin Verlander. He’s a great pitcher who had a great year, but it’s not like he did anything this season that was historically unprecedented. In fact, there’s a pitcher that performs at something close to this level nearly every season.

For the season, Verlander threw 251 innings and posted an ERA- of 58, meaning that he allowed runs at a clip 42 percent better than the league average. For now, let’s just ignore the debate about the usefulness of ERA and assume that every aspect of run prevention should be credited to the pitcher. ERA- gives us a baseline, and not surprisingly, 42 percent above average is really, really good. But it’s not all that rare, and we generally haven’t seen this kind of effusive praise for other pitchers who have posted similar seasons.

If we set a 220 inning minimum (which eliminates a few amazing seasons by guys like Pedro Martinez, but part of Verlander’s mystique is the workload) and go back 20 years, Verlander’s 58 ERA- ranks as the 18th best since 1992 – tying him with the 1993 version of Kevin Appier. Ahead of him are a bunch of amazing seasons from Hall-of-Famers like Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson, but there’s also the 2005 Andy Pettitte in there, and I don’t remember anyone writing about him in this fashion. In fact, each of the last two AL Cy Young winners (Zack Greinke in 2009, Felix Hernandez in 2010) posted a lower ERA relative to league average than Verlander did this year.

Verlander has had an excellent season, and he’s clearly a huge weapon for the Tigers, but unless you’re focusing on his win-loss record, there’s really no evidence that he’s been that much more “dominant” than any other high quality ace we’ve seen in the last 20 years. His velocity and no-hitters give off the appearance of unhittableness, but he’s pitching at a a normal, previosuly established level of excellence. And, in looking back at the guys who have been at least as good as Verlander was this year (with some being a lot better), we find one cold reality – having a guy like this at the front of your rotation isn’t a magic key to a World Championship.

Here’s the final tally for how the dominant ace’s teams finished during their seasons of greatness:

1997 Blue Jays (Roger Clemens): Not a playoff team
1997 Expos (Pedro Martinez): Not a playoff team
1996 Marlins (Kevin Brown): Not a playoff team
2009 Royals (Zack Greinke): Not a playoff team
1997 Braves (Greg Maddux): Lost in NLCS
1998 Braves (Greg Maddux): Lost in NLCS
1999 Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson): Lost in NLDS
2002 Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson): Lost in NLDS
2001 Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson): Won World Series
2000 Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson): Not a playoff team
2004 Twins (Johan Santana): Lost in ALDS
1998 Blue Jays (Roger Clemens): Not a playoff team
2005 Astros (Andy Pettitte): Lost in World Series
1993 Braves (Greg Maddux): Lost in NLCS
2004 Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson): Not a playoff team
2010 Mariners (Felix Hernandez): Not a playoff team
1992 Red Sox (Roger Clemens): Not a playoff team

Most of these guys weren’t able to “carry their teams” into October, because in reality, the effect of one great pitcher is fairly overrated in the regular season. That legitimate ace has more value in the playoffs, but even then, the teams that made it to the promised land usually still lost despite their dominant ace. The pitchers represented above actually lost more playoff series (five) than they won (four), and of course, only the 2001 Diamondbacks were able to take home the big trophy at the end of the playoffs.

Verlander is a great pitcher, but the Yankees have a pretty great offense. Despite what you’re told, history shows that the great pitcher doesn’t usually win out in the end. Let’s celebrate Justin Verlander’s season for what it was, but don’t buy into the myth that he’s some kind of historically unhittable ace that has and will continue to single-handedly carry Detroit on his back. If the Tigers want to beat the Yankees, they better give him an awful lot of help.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


168 Responses to “The Idea and Reality of Justin Verlander”

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  1. Kernel says:

    You nailed it right there. It’s W-L + IP + HEAT

    That’s how you get labeled dominant.

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    • Eric Dykstra says:

      The reality is that Verlander isn’t enough better than Sabathia to make up the difference in lineups between the Tigers and Yankees. Yanks are favored tonight despite the Tigers throwing out the best pitcher in the AL.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      How you get labelled dominant is putting up similar WAR over the last 3 years as Halladay and Lee (Verlander 2nd overall).

      You get labelled dominant by lines like this (2009-11).

      714 IP
      9.29 K/9
      2.40 BB/9
      0.73 HR/9
      2.92 FIP

      Verlander gets labeled as dominant because his performance is.

      He puts up the same rates as Greinke only in 90 more IP. That’s pretty damn dominant.

      Start writing down the pitcher’s that have had better performances than Verlander (active players, peers) and you find a very short list (perhaps just one) of pitchers that has been as dominant as Verlander.

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      • Jeff says:

        Exactly. The only pitcher that has been better than Verlander over the last three years is a consensus first-ballot Hall of Famer in his prime (and even that is by something like a sixth of a win per year). If that isn’t worthy of extreme amounts of praise, I don’t know what is.

        Face it: the idea of Justin Verlander isn’t that much more glorious than the reality.

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      • baty says:

        Agreed… Let’s not argue semantics and meaning.

        Why can’t it mean that he’s pitching at a similar level of excellence but in a more dominating fashion?

        To many of us, dominant is a different or specific kind of excellence. To me, quite a bit different than the type of excellence that for instance Andy Pettitte was in 2005. As a baseball fan, I desire the 2011 Verlander much more than the 2005 Andy Pettitte. It has nothing to do with the argument of which way is more excellent, but everything to do with which way is a more excellent narrative. I think it’s reasonable to believe that both are excellent, but Verlander is more dominant.

        And, I think most of us can acknowledge that. That there are players and ways of baseball that are more attractive or more spectacular than others. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that, and we don’t always have to be quick and clear to objectify these occurrences. Verlander throws really hard… He strikes out lots of hitters… Aren’t those a couple very dominating aspects of his excellence?

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      • xie says:

        Absolutely irrelevant in the context of this post. In the setting of one single post-season, the guy’s performance last year, or next year, make absolutely no difference.

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      • dwayne says:

        yes, because a best of 5 series is the truer measure of talent.

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      • baty says:

        @xie

        The actual article wasn’t anywhere near being that focused.

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  2. deadpool says:

    I think its simpler than that. Barring Mad Dog, all the guys who get the glory from that list have one thing in common, heat.

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  3. Noxage says:

    Heyman and Olney need to read this.

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  4. Kyle says:

    Obviously people think he should get MVP cause of his Ws. Andd any progress made last year is gone

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I think it has more to do with other events, like no-hitters, and being generally kick-assish all year long.

      brWAR has him as the WAR leader. A voter could use brWAR as their #1 criteria and vote Verlander for MVP.

      Don’t generalize so much.

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  5. buddy says:

    Not unhittable? Check out his H/9! Case closed, QED.

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    • Ben Hall says:

      I apologize if this is a joke. If it isn’t, I don’t get why you read this website. His ridiculous H/9 is supported by a BABIP that isn’t close to sustainable over time.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        It was sustainable over 6 months and 250 innings.

        Is it sustainable over 500 IP or a career? Probably not (almost certainly not), but it has been sustainable over an entire season … which could count as “time”.

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      • adohaj says:

        pitches have control over how many hits they allow. To think differently is stupid.

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      • kick me in the GO NATS says:

        adohaj: If that is true then why would they ever give up any hits? Pitchers have most of the control over how often batters make contact, but not all of it. Pitchers can control some of the direction of where the ball goes after contact by the type of pitch, but the batter controls most of the power and speed of the ball.

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      • RC says:

        If pitchers have control over strikeouts and walks, why don’t they strike out everyone and not walk anyone?

        See how that works?

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  6. Jimmy says:

    To be fair, “Justin Verlander” + poop yields 320,000 results. So, you know. Take that however you like.

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  7. marechal says:

    Player A – 2.88 FIP / 3.02 xFIP , 237.1 IP
    Player B – 2.99 FIP / 3.12 xFIP , 251 IP

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    • So You Know It's Real says:

      No one has ever seen that comparison before…I couldn’t possibly guess which pitcher is which.

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    • CMC_Stags says:

      Player A – .318 BABIP against (career .291), 3.00 ERA
      Player B – .236 BABIP against (career .285), 2.40 ERA

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      • So You Know It's Real says:

        Player A: Odalis Perez?
        Player B: Mike Maroth?

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      • Matt C says:

        The difference between Verlander’s career BABip and season BABIP is 33 hits. 33 hits over the course of 34 starts isn’t THAT big of deal. I know this isn’t an exact science because we don’t know what type of hits they would be and when they would come and it doesn’t factor into potentially more pitches he will have to throw but all things being equal if you say even half of those extra 33 hits come around to score(which would be a ridiculous amount) his ERA would still be under 3 and better than Sabathia’s. So the point is that BABIP can be highly overrated in some cases. When you K alot and walk a little like Verlander does your BABIP isn’t as important as some may think.

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      • jessef says:

        Ahhhh, you mean, when you K very slightly more than Sabathia and walk very slightly fewer with a bit (but not incredibly) worse gb-rate, BABIP isn’t as important as some may think?

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  8. Jerome S. says:

    I’ve been saying this for a month now, and people have been calling me crazy, There’s no doubt Verlander’s the best pitcher in the AL, but the margin between him and CC just isn’t that good. Plus, as we’ve seen before, he is not enough to make up the difference between the Tigers and the Yankees. Anything can happen in a five game set, but the Yankees are still favorites.

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  9. CircleChange11 says:

    May I humbly request that the “Return Verlander to Earth” articles stop? I’m not saying that combatively or from an arrogant position. But it does bother me that FG is so intent on tleling everyone the truth about Justin Velrander.

    Here’s the truth ….

    fWAR from 2009-2011
    ———————-
    Halladay — 22.2
    Verlander — 21.7
    Lee — 20.5

    This site has had its share of obnixiousness with Hallday, Lee, and King Felix. All I request is that you compare Verlander to them … especially King Felix. 3 more WAR in less IP.

    Casual fans are going to go goofy for Verlander for the same reason tradtional scouts would, and perhaps that’s where FG fights the norm. V is tall, smooth, throws major heat, and racks up lots of K’s. But, he’s added a dimension by reducing his BB/9 buy almost a full walk, and reducing his HR/9, and by throwing fewer pitches … leading to more IP.

    He’s a 9 K/0, 2 BB/0 1> HR/9 pitcher …and he puts up those rates on 250 IP, wheras some others do it over 170-230 IP. Think about that. Verlander puts up elite level rates over IP workloads that only 2-3 pitchers can match.

    In fact, each of the last two AL Cy Young winners (Zack Greinke in 2009, Felix Hernandez in 2010) posted a lower ERA relative to league average than Verlander did this year.

    For obvious reasons, we have no idea what type of obnoxious playoff comments could have or would have been made in regards to Felix and Greinke. We have no idea what type of predictions FG authors htemselves might have made about Felix or Greinke (2 big favorites among saber-types).

    Is the marginalization of Verlander just my imagination or just in response to exaggeration of Verlander by MSM or what? I feel, at this point, that I must be missing something, or that Verlander really isn’t in the class of Lee and Halladay (and I think he IS).

    Again, not taking a combative stance.

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    • Colin says:

      Nice post Circle, I like Mr. Cameron’s articles as much as anyone but honestly this kind of responsive writing to media overkill is just as annoying as the overkill itself.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      It’s your imagination.

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      • Jeff says:

        “but there’s also the 2005 Andy Pettitte in there, and I don’t remember anyone writing about him in this fashion”

        No, it really looks like you’re trying to bring him down a notch because he’s been getting more attention than other players this year.

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      • ToddM says:

        He’s right, Dave. Own up to it.

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    • So You Know It's Real says:

      Agreed. Buster Olney and Jayson Stark love him for the wrong reasons (as deemed by sabermetrics), so it seems like many FanGraphs authors are hating on him to combat the love from ESPN.

      I just don’t see the point of an article whose main point is “He’s REALLY good, but not AS GOOD as Buster Olney and Jayson Stark think.” At least I don’t see the point of the 43rd article on the same topic.

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    • CMC_Stags says:

      “more WAR in less IP”

      So you’re saying he hasn’t been able to pitch deep into games for his team and has exposed his bullpen to more wear and tear?

      Look, no one doubts that Verlander is great. He’s clearly one of the top starters in baseball. He’s in the same group as Lee, Halladay, and Felix. The only thing Dave is pointing out is that CC is either in the same group or just a fraction behind it and that the current media coverage “OMG, Verlander is going to win 6 playoff starts” is not in line with reality.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        So you’re saying he hasn’t been able to pitch deep into games for his team and has exposed his bullpen to more wear and tear?

        I should have seen this coming. From 09-11, Verlander has 3 more WAR than FH, with 8 less IP … to the detriment of the DET bullpen, obviously.

        The only thing Dave is pointing out is that CC is either in the same group or just a fraction behind it and that the current media coverage “OMG, Verlander is going to win 6 playoff starts” is not in line with reality.

        [1] I don;t think CC, this year, is in the same group as Verlander, but I also give equal weight to brWAR as I do fWAR for pitchers.

        [2] That’s never been said of CC Sabathia before? Given NYY’s pitching problems of last year and CC’s dominance, wasn’ it pretty much assumed that CC was going to pitch as often as possible, and perhaps get 7 total starts? Turns out Chase Utley really likes it when CC throws cutters down the middle of the plate.

        [3] W haven’t heard stuff like this from the AL because the last 2 winners on have been on poop teams. Last year all we heard is that you can’t beat Cliff Lee 3 times in one series. Turns out SFG just needed to do it twice. I don’t recall any articles stating that Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia were over-rated or not as good as people think. (<— That's all I'm really trying to say)

        No matter what Verlander can't "win" this arguement. There's simply no way he can be superior to Sabathia and an equal to Halladay. WAR be damned. rate stats be damned. Even he is (just for imagination sakes) DOES win 5 or 6 playoff games, well it'll just be a small sample and anything can happen in the playoffs.

        Look around. Justin verlander has become an elite level pitcher and is in the same group as only a handful of pitchers (maybe 5 at the most). People tend to get all giddy and ridiculous about those types … just like they did Lee, Sabathia, and now Verlander.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Err, CC in 2009 playoffs, not last year. I’m getting older … quickly.

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      • Dave says:

        “I don’t recall any articles stating that Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia were over-rated or not as good as people think. (<— That's all I'm really trying to say)"

        In fact, i seem to recall a (imo justifiably) worshipful article DC wrote about Lee at the end of last year (in which he claimed we would be telling our kids about his performances, no less), despite Lee putting up a significantly smaller WAR that year than this year's Verlander.

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    • MikeD says:

      So there are tons and tons and tons of articles written about the dominance of Verlander, and how he’s had a season for the ages, historic, something we haven’t see in decades, and that’s okay. When someone like Dave Cameron and others try to provide just a little bit of balance, a little bit of perspective, and you get upset?

      This is not the site for you!

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      • Fangraphs PD says:

        Move along, guys, MikeD says this site isn’t for you.

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      • Matt C says:

        Well there were tons and tons of articles last year about how Felix was so dominant and was the best pitcher in baseball and hands down Cy winner but was there a single article on here or anywhere that pointed out that Verlander, lee and Liriano all had a higher WAR than him? I don’t think so. The point is that every year there is a pitcher that gets a ton of hype, no need to single out Verlander and try to diminish his great season.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Completely miss the fact that I used advanced metrics to show that Verlander was as good as the other top guys and DESERVES all of the praise he’s getting.

        FG is treating Verlander like he’s had a Bob Welch season.

        Not fair.

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    • Miles says:

      “May I humbly request that the “Return Verlander to Earth” articles stop?”

      Why? Because it doesn’t serve your needs?

      You may request it, humbly or not, but the day FanGraphs stops writing articles like this is the day it becomes a weaker site. Do you go to ESPN and other places and write comments like “May I humbly request that the ‘Verlander if a Baseball god’ articles stop?

      My guess is you don’t.

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      • Miles says:

        One more item to add. Looking at your overall notes here, you’re coming across as a fan who is upset that every world about Verlander isn’t glowing.

        You’re also attempting to create strawman arguments, not directly addressing the articles, or even specific notes.

        Verlander is a very good pitcher. No one is questioning that. You need to chill.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Serve my needs?

        My request is that the same metrics and evaluation system be used for all pitchers, and illustrated the point using this sites most important metric.

        My concern is that the analysis becomes weaker by not using a universal approach to statistical analysis.

        I thought that was fairly obvious by my comments.

        I’m the “Present the data, let the chips fall where they may guy”. Isn’t that the basis of objective statistical analysis?

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  10. Dave says:

    Circle –

    I’m just saying, they did the same thing with Cabrera last year.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      You mean the guy that has the most batting runs (30 more than ARod) from 2004-2011* in the AL and is only 28yo?

      * I know it’s a selective time sample, but it’s just the years that Cabrera has been a full time major leaguer.

      The stats also represent basically the first 8 seasons of his career. If we reduce everyone else to the first 8 full seasons of their career, it probably makes him look even better.

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      • JG says:

        Something I’ve realized is that certain players (generally 1B without great fielding skills) get extremely underrated in the saber community.

        Cabrera just turned in a 7 win season where his wRC+ was 4 points less than Bautista (about whom probably 10% of the fangraphs articles this year are about), yet Cabrera is about as under-the-radar as a 7 win player can be on this website.

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      • CMC_Stags says:

        That’s a horribly narrow and flawed argument.

        If you are going to have a problem with a statement from last year, make it a 2008-2010 sample to at least make it relevent. When you do that, Cabrera still has the most batting runs in the AL, but he’s 17th in WAR over that period in both leagues. Below average base running, below average defense, and playing 1B all reduce his overall value. But if you want to cherry pick your time period and stat to pad your position, be my guest. Just don’t expect me to take your position seriously.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        My position is that over the course of his career (if only considering the AL years), he’s been the best hitter in the AL.

        I’m not considering baserunning, fielding, etc.

        I mentioned batting, because he’s been the best hitter in the AL since he’s been there … and he’s only 28.

        We hear more comments about him being fat, or drunk, or a wife beater, or his ‘defense’ than we do about his bat. It’s ridiculous.

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      • Dave says:

        JG —

        And i don’t remember a whole lot of those articles about Bautista focusing on his glove :)

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      • Dave you are a says:

        Faggot.

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      • Matt C says:

        CC11 makes a great point about Cabrera. Seriously besides Pujols and A-Rod this guy maybe the best offensive player of this generation(by that I mean from post prime Bonds on), and you never hear about it. It’s always the negative parts of his game like his off the field problems and defense. Seriously I know batting titles don’t mean much on this site but was there any mention that he won one this year anywhere? I heard about Reyes but I don’t think I heard Cabrera. The dude lead the league in BA, OBP and runs created and was 2nd in wOBA, OPS, RC+ and put up 7 wins at 1B while playing mostly in bigger parks yet nobody talked about it. But the moment he got a DUI you certainly did.

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  11. JTripp says:

    Why you gotta be mean to Verlander?

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  12. bocephus says:

    Based on the list right above shouldn’t your statement read “The pitchers represented above actually won more playoff series (eight) than they lost (seven)…”

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  13. Bodhizefa says:

    I remember when everyone was so sure that Johan Santana was the great equalizer in the ’04 ALDS, and that getting two starts from him meant a sure 1st round win for the Twins. Yeah, that didn’t work out at all.

    Writers and media get way too caught up in overall record and ERA without realizing just how many different ways any one game could turn out. The Tigers are the underdogs against the Yankees even with Verlander on the mound, in my opinion. Does that mean the Yanks will win? No, but people are making Verlander out to be a bigger deal than he probably is. The odds are against him putting the Tigers on his back and pulling them through the playoffs.

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    • Eric Cioe says:

      Odds were against the Rays making the postseason, too.

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      • Bodhizefa says:

        Sure, anything can happen. I know that, and so does just about everyone else who reads this site. But the media make Verlander out to be a near lock to win his games in the post-season, and that simply isn’t the case. The Yankees are a very good team, and it’s basically a coin flip if he could even beat them once.

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  14. Eric Cioe says:

    Justin Verlander is the most underrated pitcher on fangraphs, 2009-2011. For a site that has become increasingly up its own ass about WAR (and given all the recent research into pitchers having some measure of control over BABIP rates, isn’t fWAR outdated? Why not use SIERRA rather than FIP?), many writers don’t seem to recognize that Verlander is first in AL WAR from 2009 until now. And the one year where his ERA is lower than his FIP, you’ve got Cameron and Podhorzer tearing him apart here.

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    • DT says:

      Because Verlander doesn’t have a history of “controlling” his BABIP. His Career BABIP is .295, if he keeps his low BABIP up for say the next 3-5 years then we’d have more evidence of him controlling BABIP. Unlike say, Matt Cain, Verlander has not shown that ability yet outside of this year which could just be him having one good/lucky year.

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      • Eric Cioe says:

        One thing to look at is change in pitch selection. While his dominance started in 2009, that year was the outlier for him in terms of FB%. In 2010 and 2011, where his pitch usage seems to have stabilized (58% FB, 8% SL, 18% CB, 16% CH), his BABIPs are both below league average. Another thing to consider is that his LD rate this year supports some measure of his low BABIP. I’m not suggesting he’s a true talent .240 BABIP guy, but I think the .295 is misleading because he was a different pitcher back then.

        It’s just silly to me that when Greinke, Felix, Lee, Halladay, Lincecum (despite the high walk rate), etc, all of them have good years, fangraphs gushes, and there are two writers who can’t do the same about Verlander. If he went 16-14, he’d probably get a lot more support here.

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    • UmYeah says:

      How is this article “tearing him apart”? If anything this is just trying to combat the sensationalism that runs rampant through ESPN. The point isn’t “Verlander’s not amazing”, it’s that he’s not unprecedented and he’s also not even that far above his peers this year (the other aces in MLB, particularly CC). It’s not that he’s not dominant, it’s that he hasn’t actually been as historically dominant as ESPN’s writers seem to think.

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      • RetroRob says:

        That’s correct, but reading through the note chain it seems like some Detroit fans like CircleChange believe FanGraphs has something against Verlander, even though there is no proof of that. Just the opposite.

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      • Dave says:

        Judging by his comments elsewhere, I think Circle is a St. Louis fan, actually. I could be wrong, though.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I’m a huge Cardinal fan that also roots for the White Sox. I don’t like DET (any of their shatty teams).

        That it is presumed I am a Tigers fan, when all I have done is produce data as evidence is disappointing from this site.

        I would say the big difference between me and the typical FG reader is that I don;t feel fWAR is encompassing enough for pitchers.

        I follow Tango’s lead on this one and average fWAR and brWAR for pitchers. I suppose a case could be made to do the same for hitters.

        When on does this Verlander and Bautista are well above any of the other candidates.

        IMO,Verlander is above Sabathia to a larger degree than fWAR shows.

        That is not creating an alternate universe where I’m always right, or cherry picking data to prove a point, or being a DET fanboy. It’s actually following the advice of the creator of FIP.

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  15. CircleChange11 says:

    IMO, the “idea” of Justin Verlander has to do with him being in a “Bob Gibson” situation, where the perception is that the only way the Tigers win any playoff series is if Verlander pitches them to victory (i.e., wins all of his starts). The “idea” is that he *could* actually do it. The “reality” is that very pitchers, regardless of talent actually win all of their playoff starts.

    In 67, Gibby won all 3 games … and StL won the series. In 68 he went 2-1 (lost game 7, 1.67 ERA in the series) and StL lost.

    IMO, It stems from Verlander being so much better than any of the starters on his team. I think the perception is that if Verlander loses any start, the Tigers are finished. That there isn’t a red hot Kenny Rogers to win some games.

    In 2006, Verlander lost both starts and DET was out in 5 games. It also illustrates what can happen in a short series. Verlander was outpitched by Anthony Reyes (wow, I actually typed that … and it’s true), and then lost to Jeff freackin Weaver. Baseball happens.

    Last year, the “idea” was that Cliff Lee could pitch Texas to the title … and it was somewhat realistic that he could win all of his starts. He lost both, and TEX followed suit.

    I think what it really illustrates is that “ideas” are more interesting conversation pieces than reality. Talking about what amazing things could happen is far more interesting than discussing TB and StL’s playoff chances with a week to play. The “idea” that Justin Verlander could pitch the Tigers past the Yankees is one of the few reasons to actually watch that series.

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  16. Ben says:

    So what you’re saying is that Verlander is in the top 10 in pitching seasons for players that made the playoffs over the last 20 years. YOu’re right, that’s not unprecedented. But that’s still pretty damn rare.

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  17. Stringer Bell says:

    If you want to pull this “Verlander is overrated” crap, maybe you should acknowledge how good Fister has been so you can actually see the Tigers don’t need Verlander to start that much.

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  18. Billion Memes says:

    How dare those writers trumpet a great year by a great pitcher on a team that people expected to be a fringe playoff contender at best and turned into a strong contender. After all, there are always great pitchers. Instead let’s trumpet a low payroll team making the playoffs 3 out of 4 years because that has never happened before. Mariners management are geniuses for their phenomenal process despite not having a positive run differential since 2003, Phillies management are dopes even though they have exploded their team’s revenue potential for the next decade at least.

    There’s a reason so many people frequent this site, they like the narratives that its writers weave about baseball but they aren’t the only narratives that are right or enjoyable to read. And they are narratives. A FIP based WAR is not a factual description of pitcher value, nor is an ERA based WAR, its more likely in the middle somewhere. UZR is not a factual description of fielding performance, though certainly a huge improvement on fielding percentage. Narratives exist on this site too and axes can and have been reasonably ground against them. Stop grinding axes! Stick to the stuff that this site does well, provide innovative writing about ways to evaluate baseball. That’s why I come here, not this junk. No need to directly or indirectly in this case rail against the so called “traditional” writers.

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    • RobMer says:

      Yes, there is a reason why people come to this site, and it’s for intelligent, statistical-driven analysis that, among other things, points out the nonsense being devlivered in the general media.

      Dave Cameron’s article is EXACTLY the reason people come to this site. Sorry if he’s only declaring Verlander as an excellent pitcher worthy of the Cy Young Award, but he’s not declaring Verlander’s 2011 season as one of the greatest ever. It’s not. The fact that some people in the mass media (not to mention, it appears, some posters here) seem to think Verlander’s season is one of the greatest ever means it’s necessary for FanGraphs to provide perspective. FanGraphs provides analysis; it is not a local team fan-boy site.

      +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        Who here is declaring Verlander’s season as one of the greatest ever? Why does it need to be? All anyone is stating is that his 2011 is dominant … as dominant, if not more, than some of the recent CYA winners. All anyone is really stating (here) is that [1] he is the clear 2011 AL CY and [2] he’s an strong MVP candidate.

        Why the need HERE for the repeating Verlander articles, when Lee, Hernandez, and Greinke did not receive similar treatment? Did anyone EVER compare Lee, Halladay, Hernandez, and/or Greinke to 199 Pedro Martinez as an illustration of how their season wasn’t all that great? Seriously, that article was over the top that it is hard to take everything else seriously … and I love the topic and this website.

        I come to FG for objective, statistic-based analysis of baseball events. The emphasis, for me, is on the objective and stats-based. Lay all the info out there and let the chips fall where they may. Don’t start with a conclusion and work backwards.

        All of these “Verlander’s season is not historic” articles started appearing after Verlander was getting some press for being an MVP candidate. So, FG, in my opinion, is over-reacting in the other direction. I don’t find that being very objective analysis, and that’s one of the aspects that bothers me.

        People said very similar things about Cliff Lee last year.

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      • Billion Memes says:

        I only mentioned why I come to this site and it’s just the first half of your sentence “intelligent statistical driven analysis” and not the second half “that points out the nonsense being delivered in the general media”. I’d venture to say that the majority of the readers here come for part one more so than part two.

        I don’t think Verlander’s season is one of the greatest ever nor do most of the writers who have glorified it IMO. But, he did have a great season. Nothing wrong with celebrating it. Context is meaningful, whether it can be measured by stats or not. Verlander had a great year. He did it on a team that seemed to be a fringy playoff contender at the start of the year and greatly exceeded those expectations. Verlander was far and away his team’s best pitcher. There is not a lot of star power on that team besides Cabrera, which just makes Verlander stand out more. There didn’t seem to be a clear cut position player MVP this year in the AL. 24 wins (I know, I know, but it still matters to some people). These are the reasons why Verlander’s season may seem to be celebrated more than his stats suggest it should be. Sad part is, some of these could be statistically investigated to see if they are true or not. But that is not the article written here. It was one bashing other writers.

        This site definitely has a fan-boy feel to it, but that’s OK. It just shows that the authors are passionate about the subject. I just don’t need to hear the garbage dissing other authors nor the continuous claims of no bias.

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  19. Ian R. says:

    I find it funny that, of the teams cited, the only one that won the World Series did it on the backs of not one but TWO dominant starting pitchers. The ’01 Diamondbacks had fantastic pitching from RJ and Curt Schilling. In many ways, they prove the point of this article even better than all of the teams that failed.

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  20. Professor Verlander says:

    Probably the worst article in quite some time.

    Ya, pitchers win 24 games all of the time and flirt with no-hitters, every other start.

    -26 Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. Jon S. says:

    Goodness. If I’ve got the mood right, and I think I do, people are upset the the article seems meant to bring Verlander down a notch. Maybe we needed an article like that to bring some balance to the situation. However, when bringing balance, one must be careful not to go too far the other way. I don’t think this article crosses that line. I read it and I feel like the argument of the article is “Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball, but even the best pitcher in baseball can’t carry a team to a championship.”

    How about this: 2011 Verlander is a true talent 8 WAR player over a 162 game season (probably not entirely true, but let’s assume he is). Over a postseason of 16 games (sounds about right for a World Series champion riding on the arm of one man) Verlander would be worth about .8 WAR. Not exactly overwhelming.
    How about this instead: Verlander has been worth a quarter of a win per start. Assuming he gets 6 starts and stays dominant and whoever would pitch instead of him is a AAAA scrub, he’ll give his team an extra win and a half over the entire postseason. Significant (postseason MVP worthy), but not “carrying the team on his back” impressive.

    Those who expect the narrative to play out like some in the media do are doomed to disappointment.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • baty says:

      well taken…

      BUT, in essence, you are providing even more balance to this point with your comment. When I read this article, the effect I get is some sort of cross pollination between two ideas.

      Point A: The statement you provided
      and
      Point B: Verlander’s perceived idea vs. his reality

      The fuss comes from this confusion. There’s a lot of fat to cut through to get to point A. The tangent towards point B is just too prominent for anyone who connects strongly with the thought of how dominant Verlander really is. I understand the intentions were to probably use one to support the other, but in my opinion, we’re dealing with something that could have been two different articles.

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  22. Eric says:

    Why do you have Verlander, you biased prick.

    -9 Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Young Gung says:

    Nice read Dave, Circle change came with some solid points as well. This is a little off topic but I just want to comment on the last paragraph.

    I believe in peaking and baseball is a streaky sport. Take absolutely nothing away from Verlander, but the help is there. Fister has arguably been the best pitcher in the league over the past month, he’s been about as good as Kershaw and Lee over the past 2 months, and the Tigers offense has been arguably the second best offense in the month of September only trailing Texas.

    The way Fister has pitched since he has became a tiger, if you look at just the moment and don’t consider 2012 and beyond, the tigers 1-2 are at LEAST as good as everyone else’s in the playoffs, including the phillies. No I’m not crowning Fister, but in terms of the rest of this specific season, there is no reason to believe he’s going to turn into a pumpkin in the immediate future.

    I do think Verlander is the AL MVP, but at the same time, I don’t think he dwarfs the rest of his team as if they haven’ been solid as a team. If you put it in perspective, Fister and the Tigers offense have arguably both performed better than Verlander in September as they head into the playoffs.

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  24. Dan says:

    Simple frame of reference mistakes clouding analysis:

    When scoring is down, writers focus on pitchers, and the best pitcher is anointed as an MVP candidate.

    When scoring is up, writers focus on hitters, and elite pitching receives less accolades.

    IT SHOULD BE EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE! Give me elite pitching when slugging is easy to find, and give me a great slugger when pitching is generally dominant.

    This error is the basic reason why Verlander is getting significantly more clamor for the MVP than Pedro did 11-12 years ago.

    +24 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Great Point says:

      People like absolute numbers. They look cool.

      49 Home Runs is more than 47, so 2001 Shawn Greene was obviously better than 2009 Albert Pujols.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Excellent points.

      I said at TT’s not long ago that Pedro’s performance during the Steroid Era is the most impressive thing in baseball history … well, outside of Babe Ruth hitting more home runs than the combined totals of some teams.

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    • Telo says:

      I like this post much better than the article.

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  25. Devon says:

    Finally, somebody that lots of people will listen to, is making some sense. This whole “Verlander for MVP” thing has struck me as one of the most bizarro out of nowhere beliefs that have no solid factual/statistical basis that I’ve ever seen. I really believe that, unfortunately he will get the MVP and that 5-10 years from now, younger fans will be reading all this old junk and wondering how the world we could’ve seen it like this. It don’t make sense now, and it won’t make sense later. It’s all hype. Don’t get me wrong, like you said, I agree that Verlander’s top notch & definitely had a great season… but MVP… eehhhh that’s stretching it.

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    • Matt C says:

      Why? He is tied for the league lead in WAR at baseball reference? I know it’s blasphemy to mention that hear at fangraphs but you can’t discount their stat completely.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • eeee says:

        Don’t worry though, they cant here you hear on fangraphs

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      • Hear Here says:

        Certainly B-R’s WAR, sometimes noted as either bWAR or rWAR, is an accepted form of WAR, just as FanGraphs WAR, often noted as fWAR, is too. Both are helpful in rating pitchers once their differences are understood.

        fWAR incorporates FIP, or fielding independent pitching, into its calculation, attempting to adjust for defense and remove other elements of what some would view as luck, such as a low batting averag on balls in play (BABIP). Because of that and its use of FIP, fWAR is generally viewed as more predictive of what a pitcher will do in coming seasons. So it’s in the best intersts of a GM of an MLB team (or a GM of a fantasy baseball team!) to use fWAR is trying to figure out what level of performance his pitcher will deliver in future seasons.

        Yet when it comes to award voting, we shouldn’t give a damn what the pitcher will do in future seasons. We should care about what he did this season. bWAR is better at that because it’s more descriptive of what happened. When it comes to award voting, descriptive WAR (Baseball Reference) is better than predictive WAR (FanGraphs).

        Verlander had the season he had. He’s the easy Cy Young Award winner and he deserves serious consideration for the MVP. It won’t be a bad choice if he wins, any more than it will be a bad choice if one of several position players win it. There are lots of good candidates to select from the A.L. this year, and frankly I have no idea who is going to win it!

        None of this runs counter to Dave Camerson’s article. The hype around Verlander has now exceeded the reality of Verlander. In the postseason, Verlander can be beaten.

        He is, howver, the obvious Cy Young Award winner. bWAR told me so. : -)

        +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Ian says:

    If you can’t recognize the difference in “dominance” between Verlander and Appier, or Verlander and Pettitte, then you’re Helen Keller, and the only baseball statistic that you can read in braille is ERA.

    Oh, and while I appreciate the arbitrary “220 IP minimum”, the dude threw 251 innings. Use that as your minimum, and you’ve got 1997 Clemens, 1993 and 1998 Maddux, and 1999 & 2002 Johnson. Does that circle count as “dominant”?

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    • Miles says:

      Way not to understand the article, Ian.

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      • Ian says:

        I understand that the premise is that a pitcher performs to Verlander’s 2011 level nearly every season, when there might be an argument that there have been five seasons in the preceding 20, all by HOF locks, who have pitched as many innings (or more), as well (or better) than Verlander.

        I do get that it doesn’t mean the Tigers will win the World Series solely on Verlander’s arm…very good chance that they won’t make it out of the 1st round…but the whole point of the article is to make Verlander seem like a common occurence, when he’s not. You may have missed that.

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      • Helen Keller says:

        Hey, leave me alone–we get pitch f/x in braille now too.

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  27. Ian says:

    *make that ERA-

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  28. Steve says:

    All the numbers Verlander has put up this season counting and saber,
    Cabrera’s batting Runs, doesn’t mean crap, because he plays for the Tigers.
    if they played as a yankee or redsox and not from a city that has a bad rap,
    things would be different,
    Great Pitcher Verlander,
    Great Hitter Cabrera,
    both play for Tigers, so lets try to point out something that lowers their greatness, we can’t have the greatest greatness from a Detroit Tigers player.
    signed fangraphs.

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    • Notrotographs says:

      What?

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    • juan pierre's mustache says:

      saying that he cannot carry them in a 5-game series is hardly damning. several fangraphs writers said verlander should be the MVP, and he was nearly the unanimous cy young choice on fangraphs. if the next fangraphs article about verlander is called “Verlander unable to fly, destroy things with his eye-lasers”, i’m guessing there will still be hundreds of WTF Y U BIASED YES HE CAN FANGRAPHS SO BIASED comments.

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  29. jim says:

    you could just shut up and enjoy SSS, emotion-driven baseball for a few weeks, dave.

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  30. Greg says:

    The number of loudmouths huffing and puffing about this article is really amazing.

    The point of the post was that yes, he’s a damn good pitcher, but a lot of sports writers and just baseball fans in general have been acting like he’s an autowin in the play-offs (or as close as a you can get to one).

    As has been pointed out numerous times (strangely in opposition to this article), he’s been worth 2.5 wins more than CC over the past 3 years. That’s a difference of 2.5 wins over like 102 gs (they both started the same number)…and you don’t see how the idea that he’s that much better than the other aces (especially CC) in the play-offs is a bit absurd?

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • RobMer says:

      Greg, it’s a losing battle. Dave Cameron dared to not speak in fan-boyish, glowing terms about Verlander. That makes him evil to some.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        The point is they spoke fanboyish about the last 3 CYAs.

        One guy because he mentioned FIP in an interview. Another guy because he was pretty far down on the pitcher win list, and the last guy because he never walked anyone.

        The previous 2 didn’t sniff the playoffs, and the latter was supposed to single handedly pitch the Rangers to the WS title.

        Based on nothing but stats, Verlander does everything we would want an elite pitcher to do:

        [1] Great K rate
        [2] Very good BB Rate
        [3] Very good HR rate
        [4] Elite level IP

        IMO, Verlander is getting “balanced treatment” because he has a career low BABIP and a career high in pitching wins. Rather than see, sabermetrically, how is he elite (use whatever version of WAR you want), we use him as a soapbox to rail against traditional stats as if he’s Bob Welch or Ryan Howard.

        When Joe Mauer had career highs in a whole host of unsustainable areas and put up a ridiculous MVP season, I don;t recall a single “Will the real Joe Shady Please Stand Up” or “Joe Mauer’s MVP candidacy does not compare to Barry Bonds 2004 season” type articles.

        My beef is with the inconsistent and perhaps even biased application of “balanced treatment”. To me, it seems that the players on teams that are not reputed to have “sabermetric FO’s” get more “balanced treatment” than others, and while I understand the application it is not congruent with the stated methodology of statistical analysis.

        As I said, let the chips fall where they may.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        That last bit is probably more erroneous perception than reality.

        Dan haren received an “he’s an ace” article and that FO has to be one of the least favorite (and for good reasons) FO around. Mike Trout also gets plenty of man love.

        I’ll cease with the bias accusation and stick to the application of sabermetrics to analysis stuff.

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  31. Ebessan says:

    What I learned from this article: Dave Cameron thinks that Justin Verlander is some sort of combination of Arkan and Jim Jones. EVEN WORSE; that he can’t pitch.

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  32. JDanger says:

    Did you guys hear about that Verlander article on Fangraphs? Yeah, apparently that Dave Cameron guy called him the worst pitcher of ALL TIME?! Yeah, I know…

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Matt C says:

      I know it seems like people are overreacting and maybe they are. But what if last year after Felix’s dominant season when everybody was fawning over him if Dave made a post bringing up how Verlander and Lee both posted higher WARs than him and Felix wasn’t as good as people made him out to be. And said something along the lines of “Even though Felix has been great this year he hasn’t been as good as people are making him out to be since Verlander and Lee have higher WARs than him”. You don’t think the legions of Mariners fans on here would be complaining about it even though he wasn’t really tearing Felix apart?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Ian says:

        You might want to hypothetically choose a more objective writer than Dave to discuss all things Mariners…

        -6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • MikeD says:

        You’re missing the point.

        King Felix was not getting the buzz for the Cy Young race for most of the season because of his won-lost record. It was masking his greatness among a certain select group of national media writers. Thanks to the work of more sabermetric-oriented writers and sites, like FanGraphs, enough momentum built that King Felix won the award. That was great; he deserved it.

        It Verlander’s case, he’s consiedered the consensus winner for the award, by both the traditionalists and national media writers, as well as the sabermetric community. It’s gone so overboard, though, that because of his record, he’s being touted as having an historic season not seen in a generation. That part is overboard and Fangraphs is doing what it always does, which is provide perspective.

        Dave Cameron and others like him fully support Verlander for the Cy Young. And you can be sure if Verlander’s great season had resulted in a 13-12 record and it appeared the media was going to ignore his season, they would be pounding the drum hard for him so people recognized the great season he had and received the proper consideration for the Cy Young.

        +19 Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. Brian Cashman says:

    It’s time you all take a smoke from the objective pipe.

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  34. Lloyd mclendon says:

    Circle change really brought it

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  35. Verlander is not that good(and other ideas from people who hate babies) says:

    If the mainstream media is zigging then fangraphs must zag and its hurting their credibility. Fangraphs helped champion King Felix to a cy young last year when he was being ignored. They did nothing to say that he was maybe only slightly better than Verlander or Lee. He was the best and they wrote about it until we had an unprecedented 13-12 cy young winner. This year it is obvious Verlander is the cy young winner, much more obvious than Felix from last year but since the mainstream media knows it and since they are championing him for his wins fangraphs must point out whats wrong with him and why he is not THAT good. He is THAT good. He passes the scouting test, the fan test, the peers test, the saber test and the old school stat test. How about we enjoy how DOMINANT he is while it lasts and stop nitpicking the stud 28 year old with 4 legit pitches and 100 mph ninth inning heat. Thanks.

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  36. gc says:

    I can’t believe I read all of those posts and the last was the worst of the bunch. I’m not quite sure what’s happening here, but I think Moneyball is to blame.

    Did more than a handful of people actually finish the article before boner-posting?

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  37. Justin Verlander says:

    Even I know that Wins aren’t the be all, end all of whether a pitcher is good or not. That being said, 24 W’s is so-so pretty.

    Plus I threw a no-hitter, and people love no-hitters.

    Also, there’s that thing about how I’m awesome at baseball.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  38. Matt B says:

    Why are people solely basing the Tigers’ playoff hopes on Verlander? Yes I support the position of those who have defended his position but I think in all the clamoring about Verlander, people are forgetting that the Tigers actually have a pretty good lineup. They were 4th in the AL in runs despite playing in a pitcher’s park, have a superstar in Cabrera, and have very solid hitters besides him such as Victor Martinez and Peralta and Avila. Even Delmon Young has been good again since coming over to Detroit. Not only do they match up hitting wise with New York better than people are giving them credit for, but their rotation is definitely deeper than New York’s as the Yankees have very little depth behind Sabathia. So even if Sabathia is able to overcome Verlander, Nova and Garcia are not as likely to be able to overcome their counterparts. I know I didn’t make very many statistical arguments but I just simply want to remind people that they shouldn’t automatically believe in either the aura of the Yankees lineup or that Verlander is Detroit’s only hope.

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  39. Brady says:

    Ok so this was written about a month ago but it’s still a very good argument in my mind as to why Verlander at least deserves strong consideration for the MVP. Because as the article below mentions, the meaning of Most Valuable Player is still an area of disagreement. And therefore it doesn’t necessarily mean the single best player in the league, but the one that a particular team would be most hurt by not having that player on their team. But thats just my interpretation and thats part of the problem with the award: that we still don’t know quite what it means to be most valuable.

    anyways, here’s the article.

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6921420/passing-buck

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  40. wowbagger says:

    I think the point is that he’s good (REALLY good), but not MVP good.

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  41. Bookbook says:

    Didn’t fangraphs writers unanimously vote Verlander for Cy Young?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Miles says:

      That’s not enough. He must be declared a living diety by FanGraphs.

      Many of the comments in this thread do not exactly represent Detroit fans finest hour, or day.

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • RetroRob says:

        Hard to argue, although Detroit fans are probably no different than any other group of fans when it comes to things like this.

        Cameron’s article is quite reasonable. No reason anyone should be upset by it at all.

        +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dave says:

        o hai strawman, what’s up?

        -6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Strawman says:

        Thank you Verlander fans for giving me extra life the last day.

        +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Colin says:

        Yes because if anyone disagrees with Dave Cameron’s article or the purpose of putting it forward, they must be a Detroit fan….

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      • English Teacher says:

        O hai?

        I weep for our country.

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      • Strawman says:

        Colin, your comment, nor Miles’, give me much strength since both drip from a cup filled with sarcasm, a vile cocktail that gives me no life.

        No matter. Many of the other posts here are the elixir I crave.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • baty says:

        …Pretty typical to just assume any conflict towards an article like this must be driven from the “fan” perspective, and a mindless/emotional Tigers/Verlander “fan” reaction at that…

        Why is it so unreasonable to disagree with the tone of this article’s stance? I get why some wouldn’t understand the subtle nature of that tone… The author’s emotions are convoluting his point, and it’s provocative. An emotional reaction by a commenter is really not surprising and/or that big a deal either.

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    • JG says:

      I’m pretty sure a good chunk of them voted for CC. Can’t find the article though, so if I’m remembering it wrong, I’ll drop it.

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  42. CC Sabathia says:

    I wish I had Verlander’s schedule. I had to make 10 starts against the top four scoring teams in the AL. Justin only had to make 5 against them. Then, he gets to beat up on the bottom five scoring teams FIFTEEEN times! And I only get to face them nine times?

    Man, if I had that schedule, maybe people would be slobbering all over me for Cy Young. Sigh.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ian says:

      FYI – v. the AL East in 2011:

      Sabathia – 109.1 IP – 3.70 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
      Verlander – 64.2 IP – 3.34 ERA, 0.96 WHIP

      And Sabathia didn’t have to face the Yankees.

      Wish Verlander could have picked up some more starts v. the AL East to further distance himself from Sabathia…

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      • DobbsR says:

        Sadly for Tigers fans, Verlander should be getting far more opportunities to pitch against the AL East because he will probably be in the AL East, perhaps as soon as mid-summer 2013.

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      • CC Sabathia says:

        And Verlander didn’t have to face the Tigers.

        Verlander got 2 each vs BOS, NYY, and 1 vs TOR.

        Sabathia got 5 vs Boston and 4 vs Toronto.

        So even crediting that Sabathia didn’t have to face the Yankees, CC had to face the best three offenses in the AL East nine times, against five for Verlander.

        Funny how the numbers you quoted indicate a much smaller ERA gap between CC and Verlander than the total regular season numbers do. That indicates more starts against the AL East would being him closer to Sabathia, not further.

        Now let’s go ahead and, instead of giving CC 5 starts to beat up on the hapless White Sox, Twins, and Indians…let’s give him the 12 that Verlander got.

        Verlander was a hell of a pitcher this season, not near the Superman many have made him out to be. A favorable park and very, very favorable schedule are responsible for bringing his numbers up from “That was a very, very nice season” to “ZOMG HE IS EASY MVP!!!11!!!

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      • Colin says:

        Calm down CC, you’re not winning the Cy Young….just get over it and move on.

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      • Mrs. Shields says:

        Opponent Offense Quality for AL starters, min 120 innings.

        http://www.baseballprospectus.com/sortable/index.php?cid=1059324

        Of 59 eligible starters:

        Shields 6th
        Sabathia 14th
        Felix 15th
        Verlander 54th

        Given how similar their seasons were (Shields and Verlander), Shields probably has the best bitching argument, actually. Nobody is talking about him for CY, but he was probably better than Verlander this season. Sabathia’s close, but not up there with Shieldsy. 15 starts against NYY, BOS, TEX, and TOR. Man.

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      • Matt C says:

        Verlander performed better against the elite teams. Against the teams in the playoff hunt that he faced(NYY, BOS, LAA, TEX, TB, ARI) he had a 2.13 ERA with a 74 to 16 K:BB ratio and only 1 non quality start. In fact his numbers got worse in August and September when he was routinely facing AAAA lineups. So if anything it shows that he pitched down to his competition. So it’s not like he got dominated by any good offenses and beat up on scrub teams. When he faced elite offenses he stepped his game up.

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    • JG says:

      Isn’t schedule is accounted for in WAR? The park effect DEFINITELY is, so don’t even try to argue that.

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      • Ah, you like WAR says:

        Sabathia 7.1
        Verlander 7.0

        The idea that Verlander was somehow far and away the best pitcher in the league continues to be ludicrous.

        (Mind you, I’m personally not a fan of the WAR calculations for SPs, I think they’re quite broken.)

        Still, the idea Verlander was far and away the best pitcher in the league is way off. He had an excellent season. He may well dominate the Cy Young Award voting. In terms of actual value, he and Sabathia are in a dead heat, with Weaver and Shields close enough that you could squint and not quite make out the difference between the four.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        brWAR (or bWAR or rWAR)

        [1] Verlander (DET) 8.6
        [2] Halladay (PHI) 7.4
        [3] Sabathia (NYY) 6.9
        [4] Kershaw (LAD) 6.9
        [5] Lee (PHI) 6.8

        My preference is to average fWAR and brWAR 50/50, and you get the same conclusion …. Verlander was significantly better than any other AL starter in MLB during 2011.

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      • RetroRob says:

        I generally prefer FanGraphs’ WAR for getting the overall read on a player and what to likely expect in following seasons. It’s generally better on the predictive side because it includes FIP.

        When it comes to situations like the Cy Young Award, I give a little more weight to Baseball-Reference’s WAR formulr. It’s better at looking back on what was actually accomplished. While it doesn’t try to take into account fielding independent stats, I’m not going to penalize a player, like Verlander, for producing a season with a low BABIP. In the end, the season is the season. He may not do it again, but he did this year. That’s why I have Verlander as the Cy Young Award winner over Sabathia, among other things.

        Both had fine seasons.

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      • JDanger says:

        Schedule is not accounted for, no.

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  43. Cy Young Voter says:

    Colin: You are absolutely right. We normally give the award to the superficially most successful season, and Verlander’s got that by the balls. It’s a happy coincidence that he *might* have actually been the best pitcher in the league.

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  44. grapesoda says:

    The Idea and Reality of Fangraphs.

    The idea of fangraphs is, that it’s a site that, opposed to mainstream media, provides only objective statistical analysis.

    The reality is, that fangraphs, just as any mainstream site is run by people who have there own set of opinions. Only because fangraphs uses more advanced metrics than espn doesn’t automatically mean that the writers are more objective. That’s something we have to live with as readers.

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  45. Hunter says:

    Circle _ I see u finally acknowledged that u over reacted a bit, but I still feel the need to point out that the majority of your stats were used to simply prop up your own strawman. Daves argument really boils down to “while Verlander undoubtedly had a very good year, when you considered the offensively depressed season, it wasn’t quite as historically great as many are saying.”

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I over-reacted on the bias against DET.

      I don’t think I over-reacted on the articles at FG that are comparing Verlander to a standard that the last 3 AL CYA winners have not been compared to. I think FG is over-reacting to their perception of how much attention Verlander is getting from the MSM.

      I think FG is spending a lot of time telling it’s readers that Verlander’s season is not historic (the quotes in this article do not make that claim).

      ————————————-

      Look at the quotes the article is in response to: (quoted in this article)

      The quotes say Verlander is CAPABLE of winning 2 starts each series and that he was the most pivotal player in the AL.

      [1] Isn’t Verlander capable of winning 2 games each series?

      [2] Wasn’t Verlander the most pivotal player in the AL this year? (He’s not if you limit it to fWAR. If you use brWAR or a combination of the two, then he is).

      I recall a lot of people being on board last year with Lee being capable of winning 3 games in a series (me too). Turns out he wasn’t even willing to start 3 games in a series.

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  46. Antonio Bananas says:

    What was the win probability change of Verlander not being able to pitch game 1 due to the weather? Sort of totally unrelated to anything here other than “Verlander” but it’s something I’ve been thinking about.

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    • JG says:

      I thought it would greatly favor the Tigers because it pushes the closest matchup (Verlander and CC) into just one game of the series, while the Tigers’ greatly superior rotation depth will be showcased in more games. As it happened (Fister getting rocked, Nova pitching pretty darn well), who knows?

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  47. André says:

    Feels like Tao Lin has already investigated this “difference” in his well-regarded essay recently-ish published in the NY Observer: http://www.observer.com/2011/culture/does-novel-have-future-answer-essay/2/

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  48. tbliggins says:

    I must not read much MSM since I don’t remember seeing people write about this being a historically great season. It’s a great season, but nothing to get hot and bothered about in the big picture. The thing is I think he was a legitimate MVP candidate until Dombrowski hit the 3 7s on the trade deadline slots (Fister, Young, Betemit) and the Tigers went on a tear. Before that he was keeping a very flawed team in the AL Central race.

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  49. Max Scherzer says:

    I am the Tigers’ true ace.

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  50. Michigan Matt says:

    “All those Verlander-Strasburg comparsions are really unfair to Strasburg.”
    “Verlander’s basically a two-pitch guy which iffy command. ”

    -Dave Cameron, FanGraphs ASG Live Blog, July 13 2010

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    • The Nicker says:

      Wow. He really did write that. That’s pretty unbelievable actually, considering that was in July of 2010. Granted he’s a slow starter but he had just put up an 8 win season.

      What are the chances Strasburg even puts up an 8 fWAR season? 30%? Generously?

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        If you take SS’s amazing rookie season and basically “triple it” (36 starts), he’s at 7.8 WAR.

        There has been some discussion on how good SS will be over a full season.

        My view is that he’ll either be [1] dominant or [2] injured. There won’t be a 3rd option.

        In order to get close to 8 WAR, SS would have to pitch over 200 IP AND keep up his rookie K, BB, and HR rates. Would love to see him do it, but I wouldn’t bet money on it.

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      • RetroRob says:

        Let’s be careful here. Always have your B.S. detector on when there is no link and there is no context.

        The question Cameron was assuredly answering in the summer of 2010, as Strasburg was being drafted, was the comparison of Strasburg as a *draft* prospect to Verlander as a *draft* prospect. There were many questions by fans at the time wondering why Strasburg was being called the greatest pitching prospect in a generation, so many would ask how he compared (at draft) to Player A, Player B, Player C, and one of the most common comparisons was how Strasburg compares at draft to Justin Verlander at draft, since Verlander had established himself as a top MLB pitcher and could throw 100 mph as a starter.

        The answer is that Strasburg was rated better because he had better command and three pitches. Verlander was considered an arm-strength prospect with great potential, but was not anywhere near as refined as Strasburg at draft.

        Strasburg’s ceiling in the major leagues is Verlander’s current reality. A true, power pitcher #1. He has to prove he’s capable of that, but what Dave Cameron said about Strasburg vs. Verlander at draft is correct and virtually all scouts would have said similar. He was not comparing Verlander the Major Leaguer to Strasburg the college pitcher.

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      • The Nicker says:

        @RetroRob: I’m not going to put in the actual link because I’m fairly sure that my comment has to go through a screening process if I do, but needless to say if you use the google bar on this very site to search for that chat cited above. You can read through the chat and read through the conversation yourself but it goes exactly like this:

        Dave Cameron:
        All those Verlander-Strasburg comparsions are really unfair to Strasburg.

        . . .

        Comment From philosofool
        In your opinion, what’s better about Strasburg?

        Dave Cameron:
        More movement on his fastball and he has a change-up. Verlander’s basically a two-pitch guy which (sic) iffy command.

        . . .

        Comment From Karl
        Dave, your Verlander comment is idiotic and your man-love toward Strasburg is nauseating and childish. Verlander has four pitches and has used all four this season, albeit the use of his slider is minimal (yet still more frequent than in previous years).

        Dave Cameron:
        It is hilarious to watch Tiger fans react to every perceived slight. Also, I thought I hated Strasburg? I can’t keep all these inane criticisms straight…

        Comment From CCC
        Verlander is over-rated

        Dave Cameron:
        Prepare to feel the wrath of a thousand oversensitive Detroit natives.

        Dave was just going over his observations of the game (Verlander threw the 5th inning in that game) and made that statement with no context. Strasburg has already made 7 major league starts at this point and it seems very unlikely that he was talking about initial major league projection at draft time, but rather both pitchers’ career projections at that point in time (7/13/2010).

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      That’s not all that inaccurate.

      In terms of “stuff” Strasburg is superior to Verlander in probably all 3 pitches. That’s not an insult to Verlander because SS is viewed to basically have some of the best “stuff” in MLB history. SS is very unlikely to put up a 251 IP season, or 5 consecutive 200 IP seasons.

      The “iffy command” thing would have been dated and obsolete by 07/2010. In 2008, Verlander was almost at 4 BB/9, which is “iffy command”. But well under 3 BB/9 in 2009 and under 3 BB/9 in 2010 show marked improvement.

      At this point, Verlander could said to have both very good command and control. He’s 16th in MLB (SP) for BB/9 and has a higher K/9 than any of the pitchers in front of him.

      [1] Halladay is just slightly below in K/9 (8.47 v. 8.96)
      [2] Kershaw is 17th in BB/9 (9.57 K/9)

      So, Verlander compares very well with Halladay and Kershaw (elite pitchers) in both BB/9 and K/9 … AND he doesn’t get to face pitchers as batters at least twice a start.

      In regards to the AL, he’s 8th in BB/9 and no one in front of him is really all that close to 8.96 K/9 (Haren at 7.25 K/9 is closest). Sabathia is most similar, 15th in BB/9.

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      • Matt C says:

        I agree with you in the sense that SS arguably has the best pure stuff that any of of us has seen, so it’s no slight to Verlander to say that SS has better stuff than him. But to call Verlander a 2 pitch pitcher like Dave did then, and to say it was insulting to SS to compare him to Verlander is ridiculous. I know he said this last All star Break but even then Verlander had already had the most fWAR the previous 1 and 1/2 seasons of any pitchers, and before that had won a ROY, threw a no hitter, started a World Series game, and was a multiple all star. And before that he was the 2nd or 3rd best pitching prospect in baseball. So to call a guy like that a “two pitch pitcher” is ridiculous.

        Verlander is 28 now and is still throwing 101mph at the end of the season. Strasburg will be lucky to touch that at his best and Verlander is doing that in the 9th inning 5 years older. Plus AL hitters voted Verlander’s fastball and curveball the best in the AL. So again no disrespect to SS but I remember when Dave said that and he was completely out of line then. If he said something like “I think SS’s stuff is even better than Verlander’s” than that would be fine, but to say that it is an insult to him to compare him to Verlander is ridiculous, and even more ridiculous to call Verlander a 2 pitch pitcher.

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  51. CircleChange11 says:

    I haven’t been able to watch Verlander much this year, but I wonder if some of his K’s have turned into weak contact resukting in more outs on BIP … Resulting in more IP.

    When he talks he speaks about improving and becoming a better pitcher rather than a thrower. Don’t get me wrong, I_m not saying a .236 BABIP is his new true talent level, but a change in approach (perhaps even a change in batter’s approaches) could explain why his K rate is down a little and the lower BABIP.

    I’m intrigued by him because he’s one of the few fireballers that’s become a hard throwing control pitcher.

    Good for him cuz Leyland obviously isn’t going to remove him from the game until he absolutely has to. JV was laboring in the 8th tonight.

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  52. Matt C says:

    Let me just say that as a Tigers fan the only thing that bothers me about this is that where were people defending Verlander in years past when he was posting the great saber numbers? That’s the only thing that bothers me. I agree with Dave 100% and that is that Verlander hasn’t been as dominant this year as people have made him out to be. But what is frustrating as a Tigers fan is that in years past, everything was the opposite and there was nobody coming to his aid to defend him. Even if you throw out this year the previous 2 years no pitcher in baseball had more fWAR than him. Not Halladay, not Timmy, not Felix, none of them. He had more fWAR than any of them, and find me one article on here saying that “Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball”, or even “Verlander is underrated”. You can’t. They were no where to be found.

    Now he has a year where he gets “lucky” and outperforms his peripherals and the sabercommunity is out to rain on his parade. That’s what’s frustrating as a Verlander and Tiger fan. Where were you guys when he was getting unlucky? So even though Dave isn’t really “tearing him apart” it’s still frustrating because this is a guy that kept getting overshadowed because of his traditional stats even though his peripherals were good, yet no sabers were there to defend him. Now when it’s the opposite guys are coming out of the woodwork.

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