How Many Bad Games will Justin Verlander Pitch in 2012?

Justin Verlander isn’t exactly the center of attention these days. That national scrutiny goes to Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera thanks to the controversy that goes along with a nine year contract and an all-star switching positions. Perhaps that’s a good thing for the reining A.L. Cy Young and MVP winner.

Verlander came into 2011 with the a no-hitter and back to back seasons with at least 18 wins, a 3.37 ERA, 224 innings,219 strikeouts, and a WHIP under 1.176. There wasn’t much question of his capability to be a “true ace” at that point, but the question in local papers and radio that off season was this:

How good he could be if he fixed his one obvious weakness: His tendency to give up runs in spurts.

Obviously, Verlander answered those questions with the historic year he had, but I wanted to go back to that question in regards to what is to be expected going forward for two reasons.

The first was because I didn’t really know where that question came from, I knew it “came” from the local papers and radio, but I didn’t know why. Where did they come up with that question other than sitting in a room trying to figure out how to criticize the best pitcher this city has even seen…arguably.

The second was because there’s really no other way to figure out what he is going to do next. He’s always thrown over 100 pitches a game, he always throws 200 innings, strikes out 200 batters, and challenges with his fastball. There’s nothing you want him to change in regards to his game. So, in order to find something I had to dig.

So, first off, I wanted to take a look at those stats. I had never seen or heard anyone provide statistical support for that assumption. I could easily recall a number of games where he gave up multiple runs all at once, but I didn’t really know the frequency or overall impact that had on the team.

Here’s what the shovel turned up:

In 2009 he started seven games where he gave up at least five earned runs, and three where he gave up four. The team ended up losing six of those games, or 60% of his “non-quality” starts.

In 2010 he only had three games where he gave up more than five earned runs, but he did have five where he gave up four earned runs. The team ended up losing four of those games, of 50% of his NQS.

2011 He had four games where he gave up at least 4 ER but only two where he gave up five or more. The team actually ended up losing four of those games, or 66% of his NQS.

So, there’s really nothing amazing here. He’s averaged 8 NQS a year, or 25% of his starts. That’s pretty good. He’s even started to limit his NQS since 2009, and over the three years the team still wins exactly half of those games (12 for 24).

Of course this is a giant improvement over the three previous years, his first three seasons of his career:

In 2006, his rookie campaign, he started nine games where he gave up over four earned runs. They lost seven of those games, or 77% of his NQS.

In 2007 he had seven games with over four earned runs. They lost four of those games. That’s 57%, and not too shabby at all, as it falls more in line with his 2009-2011 seasons.

In 2008 he had 17 games with over four earned runs. They lost 16 of those games. That’s an unbelievable 94% of his NQS the team lost. That was his “soul searching season” the one where he lost 17 games and had an ERA of 4.84.

In those three years the Tigers lost 27 of his 33 NQS, or 81%.

In conclusion we’ve found that the question of whether or not he could stop giving up runs in spurts was a legitimate concern, but not in the winter of 2010. That would have been in the winter of 2008. So, whoever started that…I’ve officially debunked you. We’ve also discovered that the question is two-fold. It’s not just how often does he give up chunks of runs, it’s also how can his team respond when he does pitch poorly.

The first three years of his career were basically guaranteed losses, especially in 2008. But since 2009, the team has a 50/50 shot of winning even with a NQS.

That’s pretty impressive and easily answers the question, what can you expect from Verlander in 2012? He’s going to need to continue this trend of keeping his team in the game. It’s as simple as that.

The question may be even more appropriate for Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, two pitchers who are good but not great.

To round out the piece, here’s some traditional Bubble Gum Card Stats:

Verlander W L ERA GS IP H R ER BB SO WHIP
2005 MINORS 11 2 1.29 20 118.2 81 20 17 26 136 0.902
2005 0 2 7.15 2 11.1 15 9 9 5 7 1.765
2006 17 9 3.63 30 186.0 187 78 75 60 124 1.328
2007 18 6 3.66 32 201.2 181 88 82 67 183 1.230
2008 11 17 4.84 33 201.0 195 119 108 87 163 1.403
2009 19 9 3.45 35 240.0 219 99 92 63 269 1.175
2010 18 9 3.37 33 224.1 190 89 84 71 219 1.163
2011 24 5 2.40 34 251.0 174 73 67 57 250 0.920
7 Seasons 107 57 3.54 199 1315.1 1161 555 517 410 1215 1.194

Some Nontraditional Stats to give us all a better view of his career:

Verlander W-L% CG SHO IBB HBP WP BF ERA+ H/9 BB/9 SO/9
2005 MINORS .846 2 0 0 8 8 454 6.1 2.0 10.3
2005 MLB .000 0 0 0 1 1 54 62 11.9 4.0 5.6
2006 .654 1 1 1 6 5 776 126 9.0 2.9 6.0
2007 .750 1 1 3 19 17 866 125 8.1 3.0 8.2
2008 .393 1 0 8 14 6 880 93 8.7 3.9 7.3
2009 .679 3 1 5 6 8 982 132 8.2 2.4 10.1
2010 .667 4 0 0 6 11 925 124 7.6 2.8 8.8
2011 .828 4 2 0 3 7 969 170 6.2 2.0 9.0
7 Seasons .652 14 5 17 55 55 5452 124 7.9 2.8 8.3
  • opus 131

    I love Verlander, but I think it is premature to call him (even “arguably) the best Tiger pitcher ever. For a time frame of a few years, I still don’t think he has matched Newhouser in the mid-to-late 40s, or McLain 1965-69 yet. For career achievements, he still has a ways to go to match Lolich.

  • James

    Agree totally with the Scherzer Porcello points. Those two seem hit or miss. They struggle if they don’t have their stuff– something Verlander’s learned to get beyond. If they could learn to turn even just half of those 3IP 7ER type games into 6IP 4ER, they’d make a huge improvement.

    • Doc Worn

      Yeah I’ll be looking at both individually this week. I think it is a simple look at success without digging too deep into speculation. They did this, they need to do this. Same with Verlander in 2007/2008, he needed to figure it out and he did.

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