As a Justin Verlander owner in 2013 and part of 2014, I know what some of you must be thinking. “What exactly is the conundrum here? That he’s garbage or hot garbage?” Hmmm… I feel like you’ve painted me into a corner there. Garbage, I guess? It’s true that Verlander has been a shell of the player that he was during his peak seasons in recent years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that his days as a useful fantasy contributor are over. The goal of this post is to determine whether or not he has anything left in the tank as objectively as possible. That means forgetting about the irreparable ratio damage that he inflicted upon our teams over the past few seasons. And ignoring the Scrooge McDuck-like money rooms that undoubtedly exist at each of his houses. Not to mention his ability to motorboat Kate Upton whenever he feels like it. I’ve got my bear pic all queued up and ready to go! Oh, right. Gotta stay unbiased. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Verlander’s numbers throughout his MLB career:

Season W L G GS CG ShO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP ERA
2005 0 2 2 2 0 0 11.1 15 9 9 1 5 7 1.76 7.15
2006 17 9 30 30 1 1 186 187 78 75 21 60 124 1.33 3.63
2007 18 6 32 32 1 1 201.2 181 88 82 20 67 183 1.23 3.66
2008 11 17 33 33 1 0 201 195 119 108 18 87 163 1.4 4.84
2009 19 9 35 35 3 1 240 219 99 92 20 63 269 1.18 3.45
2010 18 9 33 33 4 0 224.1 190 89 84 14 71 219 1.16 3.37
2011 24 5 34 34 4 2 251 174 73 67 24 57 250 0.92 2.4
2012 17 8 33 33 6 1 238.1 192 81 70 19 60 239 1.06 2.64
2013 13 12 34 34 0 0 218.1 212 94 84 19 75 217 1.31 3.46
2014 15 12 32 32 0 0 206 223 114 104 18 65 159 1.4 4.54
2015 1 5 10 10 0 0 63 64 35 32 10 15 47 1.25 4.57
Total 153 94 308 308 20 6 2041 1852 879 807 184 625 1877 1.21 3.56

If Verlander does have some gas left in the tank, this has the potential to be a hall of fame resumé. What stands out the most for me is his durability. 32+ games started and 200+ innings pitched for eight straight seasons (2007-14) is quite an impressive feat.

Unfortunately, all of that wear and tear has caught up to Verlander in recent years. Let’s take a look at a few advanced stats to see how he’s evolved over the years:

Season K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 FBv SwStr% WHIP BABIP LOB% ERA FIP
2005 5.56 3.97 1.4 0.79 95.5 5.50% 1.76 0.35 61.20% 7.15 4.52
2006 6 2.9 2.07 1.02 95.1 8.20% 1.33 0.294 78.30% 3.63 4.35
2007 8.17 2.99 2.73 0.89 94.8 9.10% 1.23 0.279 74.90% 3.66 3.99
2008 7.3 3.9 1.87 0.81 93.6 8.50% 1.4 0.296 65.40% 4.84 4.18
2009 10.09 2.36 4.27 0.75 95.6 11.40% 1.18 0.319 72.70% 3.45 2.8
2010 8.79 2.85 3.08 0.56 95.4 9.30% 1.16 0.286 72.00% 3.37 2.97
2011 8.96 2.04 4.39 0.86 95 10.40% 0.92 0.236 80.30% 2.4 2.99
2012 9.03 2.27 3.98 0.72 94.3 11.90% 1.06 0.273 76.40% 2.64 2.94
2013 8.95 3.09 2.89 0.78 93.3 10.70% 1.31 0.316 74.50% 3.46 3.28
2014 6.95 2.84 2.45 0.79 92.3 8.80% 1.4 0.317 66.80% 4.54 3.74
2015 6.71 2.14 3.13 1.43 92.8 9.70% 1.25 0.283 68.70% 4.57 4.48

This confirms what we pretty much already knew. Verlander’s heavy workload started to catch up to him after the 2012 season, as his K-rate has declined each year along with his velocity, though his average fastball velocity has increased by .5 mph from 2014 to this season after dropping for five straight seasons prior to 2015. His HR/9 has steadily increased from 0.72 in 2012 to 1.43 this season, and his strand rate has fallen from a career high of 80.3% in 2011 to under 70% in each of the last two years.

All of this seems to point to more misery for Verlander in the near future, right? Not necessarily. Verlander didn’t make his first start of the season until June 13th due to injury, and his first few starts were predictably atrocious. The 2nd half has been a different story though. Let’s compare Verlander’s 2nd half numbers to last season’s AL Cy Young winner and all-around fantasy stud Corey Kluber:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 K/BB FBv SwStr% HR/9 WHIP BABIP LOB% ERA FIP
Corey Kluber 38.1 7.51 1.17 6.4 92.3 9.90% 0.47 0.99 0.277 63.50% 3.76 2.58
Justin Verlander 32.2 7.99 1.1 7.25 92.7 12.10% 1.1 1.13 0.305 66.90% 3.86 3.29

Since the All-Star break, Verlander’s 7.25 K/BB ratio is the 5th highest among qualified starting pitchers, and his 1.1 BB/9 is the 6th lowest. He shares the same swinging strike rate (12.1%) as Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole over that span as well. These numbers would look even better if you cherry pick your way around his poor start on July 19th against the Orioles (7 ER in 3 2/3 IP) and just look at his last four starts (2.17 ERA, .97 WHIP, 3 walks and 25 strikeouts in 29 IP) or his last six (7/10 @Min – 1 ER in 7 2/3 IP).

While there’s no doubt that Verlander is no longer the dominant pitcher that he was at his peak, he might not be finished just yet. The long ball has been a problem for him, and he’s unable to overpower hitters the way that he used to do, but he’s been throwing strikes and missing bats in recent weeks. He’s even seen a slight uptick in velocity from last season. If he’s able to keep the homers under control and strand runners at a rate closer to the MLB average (73.2%), he could be a fantasy asset once again.

Final Verdict:

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  1. Clint says:
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    Wow. Now that’s a helluva limb to go out onto Magoo. Goes to show you once more that you can make statistics show what you need them to if properly massaged correctly (not that I’m faulting you for that, just a general observation). I’ll be the first to admit I’m an idiot if you’re right though, sir.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Clint: That’s what I do, haha. I’m not calling him a top 10 starter ROS or anything, but I think he’ll be useful in the right matchups.

  2. Chris says:
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    Hello Big Magoo,

    Would your trade Chris Sale for Lester and Shelby Miller?
    I would then drop either Jessy Chavez or Rasiel Iglesias.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Chris: Hey Chris. Despite Sale’s recent struggles and Lester’s recent surge, I’d stick with Sale there. I’d want a bit more when trading away a top 5 SP.

  3. Timmah R says:
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    Nice analysis… but why am I all of a sudden so depressed? Oh yea, I have Kluber hahaha

    I’ll give the edge to Kluber for a bounce back at least!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Timmah R: My intent was for the comp to be a positive one for Verlander rather than a negative one for Kluber. Don’t worry about Kluber. He’s awesome.

      • Timmah R says:
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        @Big Magoo: haha yea I know, but I’d rather see Kluber compared to Scherzer or Kershaw… it goes along with his year thus far ;-)

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @Timmah R: He’ll be fine. Just look at what he did tonight – only gave up a solo homer and a walk across 9 innings. Not too shabby!

  4. Adam says:
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    I think it’s safe to say his best years are behind him. Hopefully he can regain some of his old form and become a solid 2-3 guy though.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Adam: No question about it. He’s lost a few ticks off of his fastball, and his breaking stuff doesn’t have quite the same bite that it used to. Still above average though, and he’s locating better than he has in recent years.

  5. Grey

    Grey says:
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    The comparison to Kluber is a small sample size, but very surprising…

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Grey: I didn’t want to bog the post down with more tables, but I compared those two due to their similar velocities and overall arsenals. Verlander is more susceptible to the long ball, but his improved control has been very surprising.

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        Still on that few starts, I’m not buying in shallower leagues, but if he were available in say a 15 teamer, I’d try him

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @Grey: Yeah, I hear you. The lack of walks has given him a little more margin for error, but he can’t get away with mistakes throwing 92-93 like he did when he was throwing 97. The Ks are obviously down a bit too.

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            Agreed

  6. J-FOH says:
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    Up til what point of the season are you writing Bear/Bull? I would think the last few weeks would turn into a buy/sell column

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @J-FOH: I have no idea. Just playin it by ear I guess. Something like that would make sense after fantasy trade deadlines pass.

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Big Magoo: we’ll have to brainstorm this during one of our chats. I was thinking about this only because I never remember anyone writing bear bull til the end.

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Big Magoo: just went and looked at Jay’s last year doing it and he did hitters and pitcher bear bull reviews in september. cant recall who did it last year after Jeremy left.

        Funny thing to do, go back and look at the Larry King posts, in his first one he has a topless pic in a link

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @J-FOH: Nice! I’ll have to go back and look at them. Just trying to get a few last minute trade offers out there in a couple of leagues.

  7. Chadaristic says:
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    In a 5×5 H2H league that counts QS instead of Wins, how would you rank the following for the ROS?

    Kyle Hendricks
    Jeff Samardzija
    Matt Shoemaker
    Justin Verlander

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Chadaristic: I’d rank them Samardzija, Verlander, Shoemaker, Hendricks. Samardzija has had two straight rough outings, but he’s the best pitcher out of this bunch. Verlander and Shoemaker are close. I give a slight edge to Verlander for his ability to consistently go deeper into games. Hendricks brings up the rear for that very reason. He seems to fall just shy of 6 innings in a good chunk of his starts.

  8. A Wesley Snipes Life says:
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    i’m guessing the main pt of their FIPs being so far apart is the HR rate difference?, and if so their XFIP’s should be very close? or is verlander also doing something like allowing a crap ton more line drives or something else i’m missing to have that great of a FIP difference?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @A Wesley Snipes Life: Yup, you got it. Verlander’s HR/9 rate being more than double that of Kluber’s accounts for the difference in FIP. Their xFIPs are much closer (3.52 for Kluber vs 3.74 for Verlander) due to that metric factoring in a league average HR/FB ratio for each player.

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