Justin Verlander has been on fire for the better part of two months now. Fully rebuilt from the core injury that ruined his 2014 campaign, and the triceps strain that cost him 10 weeks this year, the Tigers ace has retaken his spot as one of the top pitchers in the game. Last night's brilliant performance was just sort of a coming out party for all those who hadn't been paying attention. I'll blow my own horn here a bit with this piece published last week about Verlander's resurgence and the dominant fastball that is defying all the critics.
Last night Justin pounded the strike zone with 74 of 112 pitches for strikes. He ended with a superb game score of 92, striking out nine with just a pair of walk, and the lone hit a chalk-duster down the left-field line by the ninth inning leadoff hitter, catcher Chris Iannetta. Curse you Iannetta, curse you forever.
Verlander's ERA stood a a whopping 5.05 after an August 4 start against the Kansas City Royals. It now sits at 3.45, with a WHIP of 1.07. He's striking out a batter per inning in August. In his last four starts, spanning 29 innings, he's allowed just one earned run, 12 hits, and 31 strikeouts. Yeah, it's been stellar. Nothing flukey about it. Most impressive has been a fastball just shy of unhittable over his last couple starts. Trout and Iannetta each squared one up last night, but other than that there was nothing that could be called hard contact.
It's rare to see a pitcher dominate at that level with their fastball. It's not like they didn't know what was coming. The slider and curve were also on point though he didn't need too many of them. Watching Verlander carve through Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the seventh inning, striking out the side, was a sight that lifted the hearts of the down-trodden Tigers' fanbase, and breathed new hope into the team's future.
How has Verlander come back so strong? Well, he's healthy. That's almost the entire answer. But, there have been a few adjustments along the way. Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs took a rather prescient look into the subject Wednesday morning. And for your further edification, enjoy a quick rewind to last night's #MustSeeJV performance...and if there's one thing more I'd point out, it's the fact that all but one of Verlander's strikeouts came on swinging strikes against a fastball that was the very definition of explosive....
What went through your head when Iannetta's double landed Justin?
What Makes Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon Great? | Eno Sarris, FanGraphs Baseball
Bochy and Maddon are widely considered two of the best managers in the game. What in their style or tactics makes them so good? A view of each from those who play for them.
Are the umpires really getting worse? | Rob Neyer, FOX Sports
It doesn't matter that umpiring is better than ever, for exactly the same reason you're recoiling from that fact as you read this. Our view is too good. We can see perfectly, and so we demand an impossible standard.
Developing maximum velocity in the minors | Brendan Gawlowski, FOX Sports
All teams want their pitchers to throw hard. Velocity is the Holy Grail for young pitchers. A look here into the methods and practices players and teams use to refine the gas that has scoring at it's lowest point in years.
Do players outperform their projections in walk years? - Nick Lampe, Beyond the Box Score
We tend to expect players to do better as they approach free agency. Certainly they have millions of reasons to be extra motivated. But what if that pressure backfires?
The Long Season: Changes in Fielding from April to October - Henry Druschel, Beyond the Box Score
The baseball season is long, with few breaks, and typically a great many nagging little injuries. We tend to believe that a good defender is just that. But does it vary over the course of the season. Are their demonstrable differences in success over the long haul of a baseball season?
Urban Renewal: The Return of David Wright " Katie Baker, Grantland
David Wright has been the Mets' star player for a long, long time, and only now, as his career has devolved into constant trips between the DL, rehab stints and the majors, does his team appear ready to do something. It may be "the return" of David Wright, but he returns four or five times a year. Hopefully for his sake he can stick and stay healthy for the Mets best shot in years.
Having acquired every star player in the game at the trade deadline, except for that Cespedes guy, the Toronto Blue Jays are ROLLING and now have not only caught the Yankees, but opened up a two-game lead in the division. It's enough to put a parrot on your arm...