Verlander Chasing Greinke

Everyone knows that Zack Greinke has been brilliant this year. The young Royals ace has been quite the story of the first two months, blowing hitters away and racking up some hilarious numbers through nine starts. However, for the last month or so, he’s actually been out pitched by a division rival.

Here’s what Justin Verlander has done in his last six starts.

42 1/3 innings, 24 hits, 0 home runs, 10 walks, 60 strikeouts, 1.14 FIP, 0.85 ERA

Of the 24 hits he’s allowed, 21 have been singles. He’s faced 159 batters, and they are hitting .162/.220/.182 against him. National League pitchers are hitting .139/.190/.172 on the season, if you want a frame of reference for just what kind of domination Verlander is currently enjoying.

Included in those six starts are three of the top four strikeout games in the American League this season. On May 14th, Verlander struck out 13 Twins batters. On May 3rd and May 8th, he struck out 11 Indians batters. Joba Chamberlain is the only other AL pitcher to record 11+ strikeouts in a game this season, and he did it once.

Verlander’s second game against the Indians registered a game score of 92 – the best any pitcher has had this season. So much for figuring out a pitcher after you’ve gotten a chance to see him twice in the same week. The Indians were happy to see Verlander move on to destroying other team’s offensive hopes.

In terms of WPA, Verlander has racked up 2.30 wins during his current six start stretch of brilliance. Greinke leads all major league starters in WPA with a 2.50 mark, which averages out to .27 WPA per start. Verlander is averaging .38 WPA per start during his last six appearances.

In fact, you can look at all the different combinations of six start stretches that Greinke has had this year, and none of them are quite as good as the one Verlander is currently on. Yes, we’re splitting hairs a bit when we’re saying the guy with a 1.14 FIP is pitching better than the guy with a 1.40 FIP, as both of them are pitching at remarkably awesome levels, and the point isn’t to downgrade Greinke’s accomplishments in the slightest – I just want to give some context to how good Verlander has been as of late.

His season ERA might only stand at 3.55 thanks to some rough performances by his teammates during his first four starts, but Verlander has taken them out of the equation for the last month or so. With a 12.76 K/9 during his run of unhittableness, he’s eliminating the possibility for bad defense or tough luck to mask how well he’s been pitching all year.

He’s got a lot of ground to gain, given how much better Greinke did to begin the year, but Verlander is pitching at a Cy Young level right now. Watching these two face off all summer should be a lot of fun.

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

24 Responses to “Verlander Chasing Greinke”

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  1. Kevin S. says:

    OK, I’ll be the jerk who brags about having both on my fantasy team.

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  2. Michael says:

    Nice write-up, Dave!

    It’s funny: I made this exact comparison yesterday in one of my fantasy leagues, after Verlander’s brilliant performance yesterday afternoon.

    The best comparison to V’s current six-start run was Greinke’s first six starts to the season, and the numbers are practically identical across the board. But, like you, I give an ever-so-slight tip of the cap to Verlander. Though, as a Verlander owner, I’ll admit to a tiny bias.

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  3. Kevin S. says:

    But does Verlander have a super-cool t-shirt promotion planned for him?

    (although, shouldn’t the suit have been diamonds?)

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    • Davidceisen says:

      Verlander has been getting more fly balls this year, yet giving up less home runs. Currently only 4.3% of his fly balls are turning into home runs, so his FIP may be a bit low at this point.

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  4. Rex Smythe Higgins says:

    His numbers are finally catching up to his reputation.

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  5. Mike Ketchen says:


    Great stuff!
    Couple of questions for you, have you noticed anything different in terms of Pitch F/x for Verlander over the stretch or is it just throwing more strikes?

    Also just out of curiosity going forward, who do you like more for this season and beyond? Greinke or Verlander?

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    • Teej says:

      For one, Verlander’s fastball is back over 95 this year. His velocity had been declining over the previous couple of years.

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  6. Jason T says:

    Dave obviously hates the Royals.

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  7. gp says:

    Verlander may have had a slightly better six game stretch – and hey, I think it’s great because I like great pitching – but Greinke has done it all season so far. Verlander hasn’t.

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    • Eric Cioe says:

      Greinke’s going to give up a HR at some point, and then they’re going to look a lot more comparable.

      It’s really cool to have such an amazing collection of pitchers (or at least single outstanding seasons) in the AL Central in the last few years: Johan, CC, Lee, Carmona(‘s 2007), Verlander, Buehrle, Greinke, Meche, others. Even Edwin Jackson is dominating right now. I think the NL West has the most amazing collection of arms in any division with Billingsley, Peavy, Cain, Lincecum, Webb, Haren, Jimenez, and Kershaw, but the AL Central has had at least one amazing pitcher per year for the last five years, and I think probably has the most great pitchers of any AL division.

      It certainly is going to be a fun summer watching these guys match up against one another. I wished that Verlander and Greinke would have hooked up for this week’s series in KC, but Jackson/Greinke is a nice consolation gift.

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  8. brian recca says:

    lol I have both on my fantasy team too. I traded Elijiah Dukes for Verlander, talk about a steal.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      I loved the one I pulled. I convinced the other owner he was getting the leg up in the Joba/Verlander half of the dealer… and that it compensated for him giving me Brian Roberts for Jose Lopez.

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  9. Dan says:

    I traded Felipe Lopez for Verlander and JJ Hardy.

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  10. Wally says:

    Is anyone shocked the average fangraphs reader can’t kick holy hell out of joe-average-fantasy-baseball-guy? I mean come on.

    I didn’t start fantasy baseball this year, but if I were you guys I’d be looking for a sucker to pay too much for them now. They are surely good pitchers, but are obviously (too us) no where near this good.

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    • David Foy says:

      I own Greinke and i tried to trade for Verlander, I wouldn’t try to trade either unless i was offered something that was obviously a reach, like A-Rod or Albert for either of these. While u’re right Wally that they are putting up better #s than we can hope to expect for the rest of the season I think we should all still expect them to be 2 of the best pitchers in the majors and that in itself holds a large amount of fantasy value.

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    • Mark R says:

      The sad (for people like us) truth is that we’re not ALL that much better at predicting performance than the average fan. We all have biases. Just ask J.P. Ricciardi or Dan O’Dowd how hard it is fill out a roster even when you’re saber-savvy and others aren’t.

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  11. Kevin S. says:

    I apologize for turning this into a fantasy gloating thread. Uhh, back on topic…

    Zack saw this and said “Anything you can do, I can do better.” Complete gamer, 8:0 K:BB, six hits and one run. BEAST.

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  12. Everett says:

    I tried for 2 weeks to get Verlander before he went on this tear. Unfortunately the other owner apparently also reads analytical sites and didn’t trade him to me.

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