Should we be worried about Justin Verlander?

Should we be worried about Justin Verlander? That is the $180 million question. Since he won the Cy Young award in 2011, his stats have gradually gotten worse. In 2011, he went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, in 2012 he went 17-8 with a 2.68 ERA so at this point he was doing phenomenally. 2013 was a big jump from 2012, he finished the season at 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA, that’s still very good, but his regression was very noticeable.

Almost halfway through the 2014 season, Verlander is 6-7 with a 4.98 ERA. In 2011, he gave up just 67 earned runs the whole season, he’s given up 54 this season and we’re not even at the All Star break yet. That’s not to say he’s supposed to perform at a Cy Young level every year, but this is the guy who was ‘undeniably’ the best pitcher in baseball just three years ago. He could change speeds on a fastball that topped out at 101mph, he has a devastating 12-6 curveball that I’ve never seen another 12-6 anywhere near as good as, a slider, another curve, a two seamer, let’s be real guy has more pitches than Mariah Carey.

So what’s the deal? Could it be the fact he’s dating Kate Upton? Just kidding … hopefully. Could it be that Mad Max Scherzer has taken over the ace role? (Statistically) Could it just be he’s just regressing? Let’s take a look at some stats.

(Stats courtesy of Fangraphs.com, poor editing courtesy of me)

In 2011, Verlander was striking out almost 26% of the batters he faced, that has dropped a whole 10% in three years, almost 8% since last year. He went from walking just 6% of batters to 9% of batters. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was at an excellent 2.99 in 2011 and an even better 2.94 in 2012, but jumped significantly to 4.09 in 2014. The FIP will help show how well a pitcher pitched regardless of how well the ball was fielded by everyone else.

Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, on paper, that’s a very good rotation. It’s not, in fact, they have the 25th ERA in the MLB at 4.13. Verlander’s lack of production is a big reason they (momentarily) aren’t the best team in the AL Central. He hasn’t seemed to lose velocity on his pitches, he can definitely still be a very dominant pitcher in this league, this could just be a big slump. The regressing stats could be a cause for concern, though. Maybe he needs to break up with Kate Upton (hopefully he doesn’t).

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