Justin Verlander’s Importance to the Tigers’ Playoff Hopes

Justin Verlander is finished, and the Tigers are stuck with that awful contract of his until 2020.

Those were the words spoke by many — including myself — not long ago. The Tigers will struggle again this season, and it will be a legitimate possibility that manager Brad Ausmus does not survive the year. That was also predicted by a number of individuals.

In my preseason predictions, I did say that the Detroit Tigers would reach the postseason, however I did because of the talent that they have in their lineup; certainly not because of their starting pitching, and definitely not because of Justin Verlander.

With all the negativity and the doubts surrounding the team, they have proved us wrong and sit four games out of first place in the division, and a half of game out of the second Wild Card spot. Verlander leads the rotation in wins and WHIP and has an ERA of 3.33, only trailing rookie sensation Michael Fulmer on the staff. He also is on pace to pitch over 200 innings and strike out over 200 hitters. Offseason signee Jordan Zimmermann has been limited with injuries, making Verlander the workhorse.

At 33 years old, the best of Justin Verlander is clearly in the rear view mirror, but his performance this season is definitely one of the brighter spots surrounding the team. He won’t throw 99 MPH anymore, but he has been able to rely on location and his secondary pitches, like many others past their physical prime. Despite not reaching triple digits in his velocity any longer, it has improved since 2013 when Jack Clark made those comments that he was using performance enhancing drugs. Verlander is hitting 95 MPH on the radar this season, and his devastating slider is tying up left-handers with that pitch in the low 90s.

Zimmermann’s injuries and Fulmer’s youth are both significant reasons why Verlander will be so desperately needed in the month of September. Zimmermann will be brought back slowly, and Fulmer’s innings will most likely be monitored. Fulmer currently has 130 innings under his belt, already the most he has thrown in a season.

Verlander needs to be that pitcher whose name can be called to go out there every fifth day, and there is no reason why Brad Ausmus should have any hesitation to that thought. There is no possible way the Tigers are in the position that they are without him. He has done it numerous times before, so why can’t he do it again?

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