Last year at this time, I was writing articles about the disappearance of Justin Verlander‘s fastball. He was averaging just 92 MPH with his best pitch and getting beaten around because of it. His velocity recovered a bit as the season went on, but he had his worst year as a pro and entered the 2009 season as something of a question mark.
Through his first three starts of 2009, his ERA is 7.88, and he’s only managed to get through 16 innings. With another season where he’s getting poor results in April, one might assume that Verlander’s just continuing his regression from last year.
One would be wrong.
Forget the results – Verlander is back to his ’06 form. His fastball is averaging 95.6 MPH, and he’s consistently hitting 97 when he’s throwing it by people. That’s showing up in his true outcome categories as well – he’s striking out 11.25 batters per nine innings through his first three starts. His ERA is skewed by a ridiculous 38.6% LOB%, essentially pointing to the fact that other teams have bunched their hits together against him, and that’s just not going to continue. He’s also had some brutal defense played behind him so far (Carlos Guillen defended like he had been drinking before taking his left field spot on Friday night), and a .389 BABIP won’t continue.
If there’s one pitcher whose results haven’t matched his underlying performance so far, it’s Verlander. If he was a stock, I’d be yelling “Buy! Buy!” like the mad money guy on CNBC. If you play in a fantasy league and the guy who owns Verlander doesn’t read FanGraphs, make a phone call and see if you can buy low. If you’re a Tigers fan who is frustrated by Verlander, have some patience – your ace is back.