Justin Verlander pitches for the first time this season tonight against the Indians.
It should be a time to celebrate. It is not every day that your $28 million a year ace comes off the disabled list. However, everyone at this point, I think, is aware of Verlander’s struggles for the last few years.
Last year Justin had a stat line something like this: 206.0 Innings Pitched, 159 Strikeouts, 104 Earned Runs (the most in the American League), 4.54 ERA, 6.9 Strikeout per 9 Innings Pitched, 1.398 Walks Plus Hits per Inning Pitched, and a 1.1 WAR.
None of those are very good numbers with the exclusion of how many innings he tossed. Some of his advanced metrics show that he might have pitched better than his numbers, including a 3.74 Fielding Independent Pitching ERA.
Still since his peak season of 2011, now four years ago, his ERA has increased every year, his Innings Pitched has decreased every year, his Strikeouts have decreased every year, his Earned Runs have gone up every year, his WHIP has increased every year, his Strikeouts per 9 Innings has decreased every year, and his WAR has decreased every year. I know most of you reading this don’t even try to understand WAR, but I am sure you can appreciate this: his peak WAR in 2011 was 8.4, his WAR last year was 1.1. Big drop-off, right?
So it is well established that Verlander isn’t the pitcher he was in 2011, and not even the pitcher he was when he signed one of the most ridiculous contract extensions in the history of the game back in 2013.
But none of this really matters right now. The question right now is, does he improve this team?
I won’t assume more regression from Verlander, even though it is likely. Let’s just assume he pitches exactly as he did last year.
He would rank as the 4th starter according to current ERA of our staff. 5th in terms of WHIP. 3rd in terms of Strikeouts per Walk.
So yes, Verlander will help this team assuming he doesn’t regress too much. He is better than Shane Greene, or Kyle Lobstein, and who knows how long Alfredo Simon will keep this up. But it is shocking to see how close Verlander is to that edge of not even being the best option for the team in a back end role.
Verlander better figure out how to pitch with his diminished stuff or it will not only be painful to watch, but also detrimental to the team. Good thing they just starting paying him that contract extension THIS YEAR. Should be fun to watch him finish out that $180 million over the next five.