Opinion and Speculation
What’s wrong with JV? In one word: control. In two words: bad luck.
So far this year the former CY Young Award winner and league MVP is 8 and 5 sporting a 3.90 ERA and a 1.381 WHIP, his worst in the past 5 seasons.
So why is Verlander having his worst season in 5 years? Like I said he’s having some control issues, which presumably he will work out like he does every few seasons by sitting down with Tigers Pitching Coach Jeff Jones review tape. They will examine Verlander’s mechanics and figure out what needs to be fixed and fix it. It could also partly be the fact that Verlander has lead the league in pitches thrown the past 3 years, he’s a figurative work horse but he is a literal human and all that work could finally be taking a toll on him.
So that concludes the opinion and speculative portion of the post, let’s get to the facts and advanced metrics.
JV’s walk rate this year is 3.2, almost a full walk per 9 innings higher than it was last year and a five season high, he’s also giving up 9.2 hits per 9 innings, Verlander’s highest since his rookie year. The perplexing thing is that he’s also striking out 10.2 batters per 9 innings, a career high and only giving up 0.6 home runs per 9 innings, a career low.
So basically what the hell is going on? Well you can attribute the high walk rate to the control/mechanic issues, but what about the increase in hits?
The answer lies in his BAbip (Batting Average Balls in Play) – this is the batting average of opposing hitters on balls that are in play (duh) so the statistic takes out home runs and strike outs and adds sac flies. BAbip measures how effectively the defense converts outs. Verlander has a career .286 BAbip; this year so far he’s sporting a .347 BAbip (The league average BAbip is .298).
BAbip is a luck stat; the statistic shows how lucky or unlucky a pitcher is getting since it measures how effectively the defense converts balls in play into outs. So when one of the proven best pitchers in the league for the past 5 years has a BAbip of almost 50 points higher than the league average and more than 60 points higher than his own career average, it is safe to say the defense is to blame for the massive increase in hits allowed.
So while Verlander’s control issues are causing him to walk more, the increase in hits can in part be attributed to the poor defense being played behind him. He has proven this and I have no doubts that after the All-Star break JV will come back strong and as his BAbip once again regresses to the mean you will see his ERA along with his WHIP drop and his wins and quality starts rise.
You can find the raw numbers here http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/DET/2013-fielding.shtml
The Tigers defense empirically has been brutal so far this season. They are boasting a team total -42 Rtot (Total Zone Total Fielding Runs above Average) – The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made. In lay person terms; it’s the number of runs the player has directly been responsible for allowing or saving based on their individual defense. To put into perspective how poor the Tigers defense really has been, take a look at the remainder of the American League’s defenses.
|New York Yankees||-25|
|Chicago White Sox||-25|
|Los Angeles Angels||-20|
Just in case you need a little recap of the table above, the Tigers defense is tied with the Astros as the worst in the American League, and almost twice as bad as the two teams tied for the second worst defense in the AL: The New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox.
Be patient, some of the really high, unlucky numbers will regress to the mean and Verlander will once again find his pin point control. The rest of the pitching staff has been great and so has the offense, don’t worry JV will catch up in the second half of the season.
– Sunny D