Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander is among the many pitchers across the majors who have shown decreased velocity early this season, as Jeff Passan detailed in a recent story for Yahoo! Sports.
Verlander’s average fastball this season has registered 93.2 miles per hour, according to PITCHf/x data on FanGraphs.com. That’s his lowest mark in the seven seasons for which such data is available; his average last year was 94.7 mph.
Passan’s research cited figures from Baseball Info Solutions (91.9 mph) and Brooks Baseball (92.5 mph), in comparison to Verlander’s April 2012 reading of 93.8 mph, according to FanGraphs.com. So, the drop could be as much as roughly 2 miles per hour.
Verlander, 30, acknowledged Wednesday that he’s aware his velocity is down. But he doesn’t seem concerned, either. “The most encouraging thing is it’s been picking up my last couple starts,” he said.
Verlander, who said he feels completely healthy, pointed out that he’s still building arm strength because he delayed the start of his offseason throwing program after logging 266 2/3 innings last year.
The 2008 season marked the last time Verlander’s average fastball dipped below 94 mph, according to PITCHf/x. That was his worst season in the big leagues. But Verlander is better able to handle the decrease this season (however long it lasts) than he was then. His command and secondary pitches are far more advanced, and pitching in the low 90s with increased movement (especially early in games) has become a larger part of his overall approach.
Verlander’s performance has not suffered to any noticeable degree. He’s 2-2 with a 2.13 ERA in four starts this season, entering Thursday’s intriguing matchup with Kansas City ace James Shields.
— Jon Paul Morosi