Verlander’s Decline in Historical Perspective

Justin Verlander was excellent yesterday against Toronto, throwing seven shutout innings en route to the Tigers’ 11-1 demolition of the Blue Jays. He was not quite as dominant as the Verlander of 2011 and 2012, but that is a pretty high standard. Actually, the 2013 Verlander has not really measured up to that standard all year. Verlander won both the Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player in the American League in 2011, then was just as good in 2012. He pitched a cumulative total of 489 and a third innings and had a 2.52 ERA during those seasons.

By reasonable standards, Verlander’s 3.54 ERA and 112 innings pitched at the halfway point of the 2013 season is very good. By his own recent standards (as well as that being set by his 2013 rotation mates Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez), it is somewhat disappointing. It is not that Verlander’s 2013 is bad in itself, and it is hardly the Tigers’ main main problem — that would be the bullpen (solution: move Verlander to the ‘pen!). Still, Verlander’s apparent decline might concern some people. My intention is not so much to evaluate Verlander’s current true talent or possible health problems, but to put his recent performance in historical perspective relative to pitchers with similar stretches of success.

One can see the obvious sources of Verlander’s ERA issues relative to the past couple of seasons right away, of course. His 2013 strikeout percentage is just under 25 percent, which, although very slightly lower, is right in line with 2011 and 2012. He is walking more batters, though, at 8.6 percent, as opposed to around six percent the previous two seasons. What is probably having the biggest impact on his runs allowed, though, is BABIP. Verlander’s BABIP for 2011 and 2012 combined was .255. So far in 2013, it is .333. I would guess his true talent BABIP is somewhere in between those figures (a brave stance, I know), but that is not my main concern here, as I said above. His FIP is right in line with previous season (3.02 this year, 2.97 in 2011 and 2012 combined); his xFIP is a bit worse (3.47 this year, 3.21 the previous two).

It is also worth noting that Verlander’s fastball velocity is down, which is sometimes an indicator of looming injury issues. However, as Jeff Zimmerman wrote earlier this week in his injury-watch roundup. Verlander is 30, and that is well into the decline phase for typical pitchers in most respects: velocity, strikeout rate, and general performance. In that respect, none of this should be a surprise.

Age-related decline is one likely factor, and there is always our old friend regression to the mean, too. Yeah, Verlander just signed a really big contract, even if this is all he “really is” at this point, it is not all that worrisome, something Jeff Sullivan touched on this spring. ZiPS and Steamer see Verlander as ending the season being worth around five or six wins (depending on whether you prefer at RA- or FIP-based value metric), which, if not as amazing as his last two years, is still quite good.

Yet there may be a feeling that this is still disappointing for a pitcher of Verlander’s caliber. After all, from his 2009 season in which he really “broke out” as one of the best pitchers in the league through last year, he has averaged a little over seven wins a year. Are pitchers of this quality perhaps a bit different?

Let’s leave aging curves and regression aside in favor of some general historical perspective. From 2009 to 2012, Verlander produced about 28 Wins Above Replacement. To get a list of similar performances, I did a query to find all such similar streaks for pitchers starting in 1955, that is, all instances of four consecutive seasons in which a pitcher put up at least 28 wins total and went on to pitch a fifth season. The query generated 49 instances of this. Given the nature of the query, some pitchers appear more than once. For example, Tom Seaver had four such streaks (four consecutive seasons with a cumulative WAR of at least 28). Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Bob Gibson each show up five times. Greg Maddux had six such streaks, and Roger Clemens had nine. Verlander shows up once with his 2009-2012 streak.

The average cumulative WAR for a pitcher in this group over the first four years considered is just under 32, for an average of about 7.9 wins a season. In 37 of the 49 instances, the pitcher has a lower WAR in the fifth season than his average of the previous four. In the fifth season, the average is about 6.2 wins. Verlander has 28 wins in his 2009-2012 streak for an average of about seven wins a season, and seems to be in line for five to six wins, which sounds about right in line with the rest of the results.

Slightly lowering the minimum for win-value over the first four years to 25 generated similar results. There were 96 instances of a four consecutive WAR total of at least 25 since 1955, and in 65 of those cases the pitcher had a lower WAR in the fifth season. In this group, the pitcher averaged about 7.3 WAR over the first four seasons, and about six in the fifth, much like Verlander is projected to end up.

Again, nothing about the fifth-year declines is surprising. Sure, some pitchers defied the odds and were as good or better in the fifth year. But for the most part, regression to the mean and expected aging for pitchers took effect. Given the parameters we set up, the pool was made up of excellent pitchers, so it is not surprising that they were still excellent as a group in the fifth year, too, if not quite as good.

This obviously does not put Verlander into the same category as Martinez, Johnson, Gibson and the rest as far as pitching greatness. One might take it to be negative: hey, Verlander is on the decline! But again, not only is that not surprising, but to me, it seems to be more reassuring. If this is just age-related decline and regression, then that lessons concerns about lurking injury issues. Moreover, an age-related declines are not always rapid. If Verlander is “only” a six win pitcher at this point and loses a bit each year, the Tigers still probably have at least four years of Verlander being a very good-to-excellent pitcher. Sure, the last few seasons of the contract might be ugly, but that is pretty much true of every long-term contract.

Justin Verlander is probably not what he once was. But with a bit of historical perspective, this is not surprising, nor is it likely to be devastating.



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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


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essveepee
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essveepee
3 years 1 month ago

There are a couple grammatical issues in the second sentence…

65Kyle08
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65Kyle08
3 years 1 month ago

Good eye! #sarcasm

Brian
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Brian
3 years 1 month ago

Get a life with your lame #sarcasm.

Reallys?
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Reallys?
3 years 1 month ago

I couldn’t find any and I’m kind of a stickler for grammar and spelling.

Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 1 month ago

Perhaps the post has been changed, but I couldn’t find any either.

exxrox
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exxrox
3 years 1 month ago

The whole thing could have used a proofing before being published. Not sure what the big rush was.

Also not sure why the comment is being downvoted so much.

Jim
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Jim
3 years 1 month ago

Because comments like this throw the entire discussion off tracks. Most people come here to talk baseball, not grammar. Hard to believe, I know.

exxrox
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exxrox
3 years 1 month ago

Bad writing certainly discourages readers from paying for a FG+ subscription, so I think it’s in the author’s interest to be gently reminded to proofread articles every once in a while. No real harm done.

That said, this article isn’t exactly full of flaws, just a few things that could be made to read better.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
3 years 1 month ago

Paying for baseball information when there is a wealth of it for free on the Internet is what keeps me from subscribing.

Jason B
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Jason B
3 years 1 month ago

“Bad writing certainly discourages readers from paying for a FG+ subscription”

Patently false. I would say needlessly nitpicky comments that hijack a conversation are more of a detractor from the baseball conversation than minor grammatical quibbles. By a looooong shot.

nelsonsaint
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nelsonsaint
3 years 1 month ago

The comment is being down-voted because it was wrong. Also, the comment itself was not quite Pulitzer material.

Alas, but were it not for the grammar of the downtrodden and ignoble, victory should find us strident! Shall we thusly disapprove with opposable digits pointed unto the nether realms? Yay, in earnest must we go!

Or, more succinctly, who cares?

depends how bad it is
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depends how bad it is
3 years 1 month ago

If it is an article fraught with obvious errors that confuse “there” with “their”, “way” with weigh” (I don’t know how somebody could do this, but I read this on a forum recently), then I think people should speak up. But if it is a small typo in a large essay, no big deal.

ZenMadman
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3 years 1 month ago

Your ellipsis should have a fourth dot….
(It expresses a complete thought in a full sentence.)

Hank
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Hank
3 years 1 month ago

that’s stylistic at best and therefore totally a matter of preference. unless you’re feeling particularly militant today that’s not really the sort of thing you can correct on a forum.

Cidron
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Cidron
3 years 1 month ago

did they cause you to misunderstand, not grasp, or otherwise confuse you as to the point of this article? if no, deal with the grammatical issues.. If they did, OOoh-Daaarn!!

thisORthat
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thisORthat
3 years 1 month ago

Matt Klaasen is flying without a net. No one is rubbing in mistakes or suggesting Klaasen is incapable of writing well. No self-respecting writer wants an error-filled post under their byline. A reader politely pointing out errors, errors the writer can then discretely correct, improves the writer’s work and by extension FanGraphs.

Two things, primarily, have made the copy editor obsolete: a tolerance for errors, and an engaged readership that can respond on the fly. The latter is an improvement on the old way. The former is a dumbing down–something I would think anathema to the FanGraphs community.

I write this as someone that has written professionally online for years: polite correction of mistakes is welcome. I am much more vexed by people pretending to rush to my defense.

HuskerDru
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HuskerDru
3 years 1 month ago

Discreetly correct, that is….

Jay29
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Jay29
3 years 1 month ago

Well said, thisORthat.

malarky1
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malarky1
3 years 1 month ago

“Verlander won both the Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player in the American League in 2011…” It should read either; Verlander won both the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player… or Verlander was the winner of both the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player. So essveepee is correct. There is no reason to get obnoxious because your English is poor. Some of you sports fanatics need to get a life and quit taking things so personal. It’s a game for crying out loud.

Spencer D
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Spencer D
3 years 1 month ago

I see it now. That said, it’s Dave’s fault, he’s the editor.

Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 1 month ago

No reason to insult our English. essveepee said the second sentence, and that’s not the second sentence; it’s the fourth.

I apologize to Matt Klaassen for the way that his article has been hijacked.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
3 years 1 month ago

We have a winner!

FGClique
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FGClique
3 years 1 month ago

Piling on the person that pointed out the error(s) derailed the conversation.

Chris
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Chris
3 years 1 month ago

Verlander’s performance for the first few months this season has certainly been disappointing by his standards, and for those of us who have watched his starts this year, there was always something slightly off about his outings.

About two weeks ago Verlander and the Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones discovered a flaw in his mechanics, and over the past two starts he has begun to look like the Verlander of old. He may not be able to reach 7 wins again this year, but I wouldn’t be at all shocked if he manages another 6-win season, possibly even matching his 2010 season.

Spencer D
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Spencer D
3 years 1 month ago

Walks. He walks far too many guys. He needs to learn to draw weak contact a la Halladay.

Spencer D
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Spencer D
3 years 1 month ago

Which is the totally irrational conclusion I draw from having Halladay, Maddux, and Lee being my favourite pitchers.

TC
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TC
3 years 1 month ago

You’re right about the walks. It seems like he is forcing the issue with pitch sequence. By that, he appears more concerned with showing all his pitches early in the game. He doesn’t seem to lock in on what his best pitch is and he just gets too deep in the count. Couple that with zero control of his breaking pitches and you’ve got a pitcher that’s wasting pitches in the dirt and hanging other pitches that get crushed. I’d have him work on just throwing the fastball in, out and up and not worry about the other stuff.

brianwilliams42
Member
Member
brianwilliams42
3 years 1 month ago

His fastball velocity chart made me think there was something wrong with my screen or the picture. The bottom of every single line for the last 3 years is almost exactly the same, nothing slower than 91mph, ever.

Until I see the bottoms of the lines start to get lower, I’m trying really really hard to trade for him. I know that’s not fangraphs-quality analysis, but that stands out to me.

Paul Clarke
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Paul Clarke
3 years 1 month ago

There’s nothing wrong with your screen but there is something wrong with Pitch F/X’s pitch classification. For Verlander it seems to have a firm rule: if it’s over 91 mph it’s a fastball and if it’s under 91 it’s a change-up. If you look at the game charts you can see that there are a bunch of fastballs being classified as change-ups in order not to break this rule, which also means that his average fastball velocity is being over-estimated.

AMAC
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AMAC
3 years 1 month ago

Yea! I get excited that his changeup always tops out at 91mph no matter what! Such control of his pitches!! Or classification issues.

Neil
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Neil
3 years 1 month ago

The point of this post is really hidden deep within be text. The message is nothing is wrong with Verlander except that he’s getting older and great pitchers are not invincible to aging, so he’s probably more like a 6 win player instead of a 7 win player. That’s not how the post sets up, though.

The Foils
Member
The Foils
3 years 1 month ago

This, exactly.

I don’t know if the idea behind the title was to be inflammatory to get people to read or what… but I’m pretty sure Verlander would need to be showing genuine signs of decline for this to make sense.

Hank
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Hank
3 years 1 month ago

uh… i’m pretty sure declining win totals are about as genuine sign of decline as you’re going to get. i agree that his decline isn’t particularly sharp, but the message i got from this post (and it seems like you did too) is that while verlander is declining somewhat, it’s about as sharp as you would expect from a pitcher his age who has had this type of success. in other words, this article put his decline in historical perspective for me. i see nothing wrong with it.

The Foils
Member
The Foils
3 years 1 month ago

“i’m pretty sure declining win totals are about as genuine sign of decline as you’re going to get.”

Uhhhh… really? That doesn’t sound very Fangraphsy to me.

I would think a decline based on half a season’s worth of unusually elevated BABIP when just about every other peripheral says “all system’s go” shouldn’t be considered a decline on this site.

Bip
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Bip
3 years 1 month ago

That analysis isn’t based on BABIP. He mentions it briefly to explain an unusually elevated ERA, and then immediately dismisses it as not predictive and proceeds with the analysis based on predictive factors that fangraphs is known to use.

His walk rate is elevated and his fastball velocity is down a little. That is certainly not “all systems go,” but it could very well qualify for “decline phase frequently observed in pitchers Verlander’s age.”

Hawk Heckleson
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Hawk Heckleson
3 years 1 month ago

I don’t really think you can be predictive without analyzing the BABIP – I don’t think he BB% is at all unusual with a pitcher that has had to work a bit harder due to a large increase in runners. His K% is slightly lower, but his K/9 is largely elevated. I feel like these are both telling of a pitcher having to pitch more per game.

I also don’t really think this article is being “predictive”. It is trying to find descriptions via historical markers that can give us insight to the cause of his prior results.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
3 years 1 month ago

A high BABIP could affect his walk rate, but I find it hard to believe it could explain the ~40% increase we’re seeing this year compared to 2011-2012.

Casey
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Casey
3 years 1 month ago

Holy crap people. JV came out the gate this season killing it, had a bad stretch due to adjustments he thought he needed to make and now hes killing it all over again. Settle down. He still has the potential to be the best and he’s certainly the smartest pitcher around. By the way, who cares about wins as a pitching stat? It doesnt mean anything when you give up 1 or 2 runs but your offense doesnt do a thing. It is completely based on run support. An issue that an AL pitcher has no control of.

GG
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GG
3 years 1 month ago

Oh. Sad.

evo34
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evo34
3 years 1 month ago

The guy’s fastball is 2-3 mph below his peak years. How more “genuine” a sign of decline can you get?

Phantom Stranger
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Phantom Stranger
3 years 1 month ago

I think it’s less about the minor dip in overall velocity and more about an inability to control all of his pitches in the strike zone at times. He gets in trouble when his off-speed stuff isn’t getting called for strikes, and that has been happening more and more in 2013. He also has too much faith in his change-up, because I’ve noticed hitters waiting for it in certain counts.

mrfood
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mrfood
3 years 1 month ago

His BABIP is up for the above reason, in my opinion, not to mention the elevated LD% this year. If you look at his pitch percentages, he is throwing the changeup a whole lot more than in the last two years, and batters are waiting on it. In his start last night in Toronto, he got away from trying to pull the string on batters with the changeup in his predictable changeup counts, and he had more success. He seems to be going back to wasting some fastballs high and outside and speeding bats up in 2 strike counts, and his secondary pitches have looked dramatically more effective the last two starts ( my opinion ) because of that, as he was inducing more weak grounders last night than I’ve seen in quite some time.

I realize this is purely anecdotal, and I am too lazy to look up actual numbers; however, by the eyeball test, the change in his mechanics has led to better fastball control, and that has seemed to make the difference the last two starts, against pretty good lineups.

Synovia
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Synovia
3 years 1 month ago

Throwing the changeup more is just a classification error in the PitchFX data. PitchFX is calling anything below 91 a changeup.

He’s not throwing as hard this year, so pitchFX thinks more changeups.

evo34
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evo34
3 years 1 month ago

What about his velocity “dip” is “minor”? He was 95-96 for three seasons; now he has declined to 92.5. That is anything but minor. By most estimates, 1 mph lost is about +0.25 to the ERA. A 0.75 change in ERA is pretty significant.

Nathan
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Nathan
3 years 1 month ago

I agree. I know there are PitchFX classification issues, but that’s exactly where it is important to occasionally just use the old eyeball test to see what’s going on. And as you’ve noticed, I’m sure most Tiger fans have seen Verlander was much more interested in throwing his change and curve, and the last two starts he seems to have made some adjustments.

That said, it’s still a bit worrisome to me that his velocity is down so significantly this season (but again, because of the classification issues, hard to tell exactly how far down it is… could be better or worse than it looks). Perhaps some discomfort or an injury is the reason he moved off of throwing his top heat. Then again, you wouldn’t generally be throwing curves if you had an injury lingering. Really, there’s just a lot of unknowns here that are concerning for Tigs fans.

One last thing I’d throw at the wall… does anyone think it is possible he was tipping pitches? Can’t help but wonder if maybe his arm action on the fastball and change wasn’t consistent, or something of that nature.

Anon
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Anon
3 years 1 month ago

I’d be interested in seeing the list of the 49 4 year periods. I’m rather amazed that 34 of the 49 such periods were accomplished by just 6 pitchers. I just looked up Koufax and he did it 3 times (the last 6 seasons of his career) so that means 37 of the 49 such periods were done by just 7 pitchers. I find that pretty amazing really. . . . .

Synovia
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Synovia
3 years 1 month ago

Why are you surprised by that? Its a lot easier to throw the 5th great season when you already have 4 (and get a second 4 season set) than it is to throw 4 great seasons.

The Party Bird
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The Party Bird
3 years 1 month ago

Might this be the first fangraphs article that assumes a pitcher’s decline when that pitcher is currently running a 74 FIP-?

The Sauce
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The Sauce
3 years 1 month ago

That was my thought. I started reading this assuming it was satire.

dave F
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dave F
3 years 1 month ago

forget about the grammer and mor importantly for get about the statistics like war and etc. Lets play ball

depends how bad it is
Guest
depends how bad it is
3 years 1 month ago

Numbers make my head hurt. They stupid. Me like listening to Harold Reynolds and da Hawk talk about TWTW.

Bip
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Bip
3 years 1 month ago

I don’t see the significance of the 4-year period. I bet you would find the same thing about the 4th year when looking at streaks of 3 years with 7 or more WAR per season, or the 3rd when looking at streaks of 2 years. It seems to me the underlying factor at work is that many things have to go right for a player to put up a 7-win season, much more than just having the requisite talent. There has to be a combination of talent, health, age, mental consistency, and a bunch of things I’m surely not considering.

We know Verlander has the talent. We also are pretty sure he has the makeup and ability harness his talent. We think he has the health. Age is questionable. What I think we can rule out is the idea that there’s something significant about a 4-year peak that causes a decline in the fifth year.

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
3 years 1 month ago

The actual and/or percieved quality of his innings leads to him being pitched more often, perhaps, and the consequence, though slight, is that there is a physical toll, the effects of which, though indeterminate, are surely significant.

alen
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alen
3 years 1 month ago

put verlander in the pen, interesting idea. seems like most pen pitchers have no stamina and can only pitch 2-3 innings every few days. wonder if you take a starting pitcher and have him relieve to pitch 2 innings every 2-3 days.

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
3 years 1 month ago

That is what think should happen to Tim Lincecum. Seeing as he is still as unhittable as ever, and it seems that his control is the primary issue. Bring him in to pitch 2-3 innings when you face particularly free swinging lineups, and not against lineups with high walk percentages and low o-swing percentages.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
3 years 1 month ago

I think the issue is that he’s been pretty damn hittable because his command just isn’t there anymore and he’s throwing 95 when he’s reaching back, not 98.

Bread n Mustard
Member
3 years 1 month ago

No way the Tigers will put their $200 million dollar man in the pen anytime soon. Leyland will use him til his arm falls off.

james wilson
Guest
james wilson
3 years 1 month ago

Bad grammar and baseball are joined at the hip. Complaining about bad grammar on a baseball blog is strictly for guys who can’t even spit sunflower seeds.

baycommuter
Guest
baycommuter
3 years 1 month ago

True enough. Many years ago, some English teachers in Missouri tried to get the FCC to order Dizzy Dean dropped from the Cardinals radio because he said things like “he slud into third.” Dean replied: “”Well, all I got to say is that when me and Paul and pa was pickin’ cotton in Arkansas, we didn’t have no chance to go to school much. But I’m glad that kids are gettin’ that chance today.” The fans loved him, and Dean became the first national baseball broadcaster with a salary of $100,000.

Bread n Mustard
Member
3 years 1 month ago

“The actual and/or perceived quality of his innings leads to him being pitched more often, perhaps, and the consequence, though slight, is that there is a physical toll, the effects of which, though indeterminate, are surely significant.”

Spencer D could not have said it better.

Very few starting pitchers are able to throw that hard for very long. People like to bring up guys like Nolan Ryan and Steve Charlton but those guys played in a different era.

I expect his velocity to continue going down. The Tigers are bad at managing their pitching staff and the way they have used Verlander is an example of that. He has thrown the most pitches in the Majors since 2008 and we are starting to see the effects of it.

I think many pitchers attempt to tweak their mechanics in order to maintain velocity as their arm starts getting weaker and eventually it leads to injuries.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 1 month ago

Is it bad to ride your pitcher so much when it is the prime of your winning?

Miggy and Fielder are going to start their decline phases relatively soon. They’ve certainly got enough pieces for a WS run. And they went to the WS last year. Plus, they’ve won their division the last two years. All this suggests that the Tigers, right now, are going to be in the prime of their winning, and that they have been the past two years (When Miggy was in his prime, they brought in Fielder and V-Mart still was good).

It seems to me the BEST time to throw the most innings would be when the team has the best chance of winning. Data suggests the past two years + this year are, at the least, very close.

Bread n Mustard
Member
3 years 1 month ago

When you pretend to make that pitcher the highest paid pitcher in history, paying him almost a quarter billion dollars over a span of 8 years, then yes it is bad to ride your pitcher.

If Verlander were to pitch lights out like he has the past four years he will be worth every penny however that is very unlikely.

Bread n Mustard
Member
3 years 1 month ago

plan*

Krang
Guest
Krang
3 years 1 month ago

Verlander was licked to a splinter in May, but that, like his (slightly inflated) ERA on the whole, is due mostly to a .333 BABIP. Sometimes batters square up, rocket it off the hot spot. But Verlander’s FIP is rock-steady. His xFIP has be-bopped up a bit, but not enough to deserve comment. His opposing batter slash line might be up, but that kind of noisy, defensive dependent data isn’t typically FanGraphs purview. I don’t meant to be a baxter, or an ace, ducking identification after hurling mud, but this one should have been shredder’d before publication.

Jason B
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Jason B
3 years 1 month ago

“Verlander was licked to a splinter in May”

wut

Record Keeper
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Record Keeper
3 years 1 month ago

The highest WAR reliever in 2012: Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman, virtually tied at 3.3.

Number of starters who matched or exceeded the highest WAR total for relievers: 27.

The three pitchers closest to the 3.3 mark: 2012 Josh Johnson, 2012 Jordan Zimmermann and 2012 Jon Lester.

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 1 month ago

I’m not a statistician, but can’t this be somewhat explained by regression?

In that query you selected based on the best results. So whether it’s a 1 year period or a 4 year period, you’re going to come up with stretches where guys were both lucky and good.

My understanding is that when you select for best results you’re naturally going to get decline afterwards.

Synovia
Guest
Synovia
3 years 1 month ago

“Age-related decline is one likely factor, and there is always our old friend regression to the mean, too.”

Regression to the mean doesn’t mean to the league mean, it means to your own talent level. It means that over the long term, your performance will move towards your talent level.

it doesn’t mean that every player regresses to league average BABIP or anything like that. They don’t.

Nick DeVera
Member
Nick DeVera
3 years 1 month ago

Not to mention that Verlander is a power pitcher and has 1654.1 innings logged in since 2006 and he is only 30.

jim fetterolf
Guest
jim fetterolf
3 years 1 month ago

Matt, was there information on a trend for the groups for sixth and seventh seasons? Does the line keep dropping or do they stabilize around six for a few years, then take another step down?

Colin
Guest
Colin
3 years 1 month ago

I wouldn’t just assume that a competitive guy like Verlander is just in the “decline phase” of his career at this point. Even before the season began it was known that Verlander didn’t do his normal workout routine and took time off due to the long post season. It was the first time he had done that and perhaps not surprisingly his velocity is down. With an off season of standard workouts I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back up next year.

Jon Hagar
Guest
Jon Hagar
3 years 1 month ago

There has been much said re: Verlander learning to manage his velocity early and saving the upper 90s stuff for the late innings. Could the dip this year in fastball velocity be partly explained by the fact that he has struggled, primarily for control reasons, to go beyond 5 innings? If you look at his velocity charts for the last 2 games (since the reported arm slot fix), where he went 8 & 7 innings respectively, his fastball is closer to 94-95. Granted, I haven’t seen him touch triple digits this year, I just wonder if his short outings are skewing his average velocity down just slightly.

RustyKuntz
Guest
RustyKuntz
3 years 1 month ago

This is the first explanation that occurred to me after reading this very article. He has failed to record an out beyond the 5th inning in a third of his starts (six times). He has also only pitched in the 8th inning of a game twice so far this season. The past two seasons he would have done that 4 or 5 times as often by now. I don’t think that accounts for all of his velocity woes, but it has to at least figure in around 50% of it.

He’s gotten hit a little more often this year so he hasn’t been able to go deeper into ballgames. I think the explanation for that is more obvious than peripherals.

Verlander’s worst starts by ERA in 2013:

Date Opp IP TBF H R ER HR BB K ERA FIP xFIP
05-16 @TEX 2.2 16 6 8 8 1 2 3 27.00 9.07 5.26
06-18 BAL 5.0 26 7 5 5 2 4 5 9.00 8.67 6.02
05-22 @CLE 5.0 26 10 5 5 1 1 9 9.00 2.67 1.77
06-23 BOS 5.0 26 7 4 4 0 3 4 7.20 3.87 6.42
05-11 CLE 5.0 26 6 4 3 0 5 7 5.40 3.27 4.12
06-07 CLE 7.0 30 7 3 3 0 2 6 3.86 2.21 3.83
06-01 @BAL 7.0 29 8 3 3 2 1 5 3.86 5.78 3.69
05-27 PIT 7.0 30 7 3 3 0 2 13 3.86 0.21 1.22
04-07 NYY 7.1 30 7 3 3 1 2 4 3.68 4.57 4.92

Look at the quality of opponents in nearly half of his starts. Cleveland, Baltimore, Texas and Boston are among the best offenses in either league this year.

It’s half a season and he appears to be fine except for a slight velocity issue–I think the above data explains a good deal of it.

RustyKuntz
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RustyKuntz
3 years 1 month ago

Sorry for the formatting issue above. Just go to his player page, click [Game Log] then sort by ERA. Simple.

Owen
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Owen
3 years 1 month ago

Some contract math: If you take Verlander as a 6-win pitcher this year entering the .5 WAR linear decline phase that Fangraphs uses so much, then he’s projected to earn 31.5 WAR during that contract, or 4.5 war/season. Assuming $5.25m/win in 2013 and basic inflation assumptions (stolen from here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/linear-dollars-per-win-again/), his production would be worth $188 million over the life of his contract, justifying the $180m deal.

However, the linear decline assumed there is entirely theoretical. I stole the “comparable players” list from Jeff’s preseason post about the Verlander contract (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/justin-verlander-summits-money-mountain/). That gives 20 pitchers who earned 15 WAR between ages 27-29, and looks at how they did in their ages 30-36 seasons. They averaged 245IP and 6.35 WAR/season from ages 27-29, then posted 150IP and 3.00WAR/season from ages 30-36. By contrast, Verlander averaged 237IP and 6.7WAR/season during his 27-29 years.

If you assume Verlander suffers a proportional decline in IP/season and WAR/IP during his contract, he’d be expected to post 22WAR over that time, good for a $129m value. But that list includes 3 players–J.R. Richard, Jose Rijo, and Brandon Webb, who never managed more than 113IP total in their 30-26 seasons. Verlander has 112IP so far this season, so if you strip them out and reapply the proportional decline, Verlander’s projection rises to 25.4WAR, a $148m value. If you further strip out Johan Santana and Teddy Higuera, who each posted less than 500IP, or less than 2.5 current Verlander seasons, the projection is 27.5WAR and $163m.

Of course, there’s enormous amounts of guesswork and approximation here: are wins linear? What is the proper price for 1 win and how should we project inflation? Is it fair to ignore the pitchers who faded quickly due to health while keeping the Madduxes and Carltons who kept on trucking? But this suggests that using reasonable estimates for declines in innings totals and performance, and consensus figures for $/WAR, Verlander’s contract is probably a slight overpay, in the range of $15-$25m total. It’s not outlandish given his comparables, but there is both an outside chance that this becomes a total bust and a decent chance it becomes a significant annoyance in the later years of the deal.

Also please let me know if I’m missing something on the math.

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