Archive for the ‘Justin Verlander’ Category

New York Yankees v Detroit Tigers - Game Three

Let’s be clear: Justin Verlander is not alone in the following sentiment, tweeted after last night’s NFC Championship Game:

This is less about Justin Verlander and more about baseball culture: if somebody does something like Richard Sherman did on Sunday night — loudly celebrates their own accomplishments between the lines — they are pending for a fastball to the ribs. This is the conventional baseball wisdom. But as reckless and disgusting as I find it, I have to admit it comes from an understandable place: people hate losing, and they hate being reminded about it even more.

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MLB: ALDS-Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics

Durability is neigh invaluable in the big leagues. Innings, innings, innings. It is a point of pride among pitchers and a valued asset among general managers. If you’re healthy, you’re wealthy.

Justin Verlander has long been the best of both worlds – the performance and the durability. Eight years in the bigs without a single trip to the disabled list. Seven straight seasons of 32 starts or more, seven straight seasons of 200 innings. Lead the league in starts three times and innings pitched three times, topping the 250 innings mark in 2011 when he won both the Cy Young and American League MVP.

He pitched all those innings at an incredibly high level. He’s a marvel and a wonder. And now, for the first time in his career, he’s hurt.

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MLB: ALDS-Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics

Reports of Justin Verlander‘s demise were grossly overstated. You know this and I know this. Anyone who claims Justin Verlander had a down year in 2013 is selling something. Sure, he didn’t match the numbers he put up during seasons in which he first won the Cy Young award and then finished second in the voting, but he is still one of the ten best starters in baseball. He threw a lot of innings and struck out 200 more batters. Par for the course.

In the NBA, there seems to be a tacit understanding that it isn’t neccesary for a player to give their all every night. San Antonio Spurs coach/maestro Gregg Popovich is famous for strategically resting his star players during the regular season with an eye towards the long playoff journey. Baseball doesn’t tend to work this way thanks to current league model of making the regular season “not a total waste of time and space.” It’s hard to earn a playoff berth in baseball. The margin for error is slight enough that taking games or weeks off can undo six months of work.

I don’t know that I can connect the two paragraphs above effectively, but it doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility to suggest Justin Verlander “saved” himself for the postseason. Stranger things have happened. To folks like you and me and Rob Neyer, it looks an awful lot like Justin Verlander flipped a switch when the calender flipped to September – even if we know it isn’t exactly true. It’s unlikely he did anything differently, things just worked out a little better for him against worse competition. Then again, if anybody could pull off “changing gears” midseason, it’s Justin Verlander.

Across two starts versus the A’s in the Division Series, Justin Verlander looked every bit the best pitcher in the league. He struck out batters at will and basically allowed no base runners. 15 innings, 21 strikeouts, two walks, six hits, zero runs allowed. Nobody just decides to be that good but the Tigers are still playing today because Justin Verlander mowed down the Oakland A’s.

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Tonight’s Game Five between the Oakland A’s and Detroit Tigers seemed awfully familiar. It was eeirly similar to Game Five between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, contested just 24 hours earlier. Dominant and well-decorated ace mows down opposing lineup. Rookie starter makes one crucial mistake which ends in seats. Scene. Fin.

Justin Verlander pitched about as well as he, or anybody, can pitch. Verlander had all three of his offerings working, throwing them seemingly at random. First pitch curve for you, changeups for you, upper nineties heat for you – don’t push, there are plenty of good seats available in the home dugout. Nobody knew what to expect, other than a frustrating and brief at bat. The A’s went hitless for six innings before finally taking advantage of Johnny Peralta’s fall down range for their first hit.

This game was also very much like the Game Five played before these same two teams in this same stadium just one year ago. In a deciding Game 5 played 364 days ago, Verlander went nine innings, striking out 11, walking just one and allowing four hits. Sixteen swinging strikes. Domination.

Though he didn’t go the distance tonight, he was just as good. Eight innings pitched, 10 strikeouts, one walk and two hits. 24 swinging strikes. Last year’s game score? 89. Tonight? 87. Total domination in equal measure.

The A’s, well, what is left to say about the Oakland Athletics at this point? Billy Beane‘s transcribed Moneyball quote will follow him to the end of days.

The Tigers are a really good, if top-heavy, baseball team. Like the Cardinals last night, they flat beat their competition. The Tigers won because Justin Verlander put his foot on the throat of the Athletics and did an entire kettle bell workout. Not until he left and Joaquin Benoit took over did the A’s even appear to have a chance. Verlander was too good, just as Max Scherzer was too good in relief in Game Four.
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The attrition might not catch up to the A’s, because they still have the AL’s ERA leader to start Game One against Boston. Add in a flickering hope that Miguel Cabrera might still be worth a damn and you have a scary team with World Series aspirations.

So the deepest/best rotation in baseball and the best hitter, too? That seems like a decent start when facing a potential Red Sox juggernaut. Not a good League Championship series for fans of the underdog but a great LCS for fans of “two storied franchises with history and excellent players.” Sounds boring. Count me OUT.

Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros

Kaboom! Pow! The Angels come back against the Cardinals!

Break up the Angels! The Halos discovered the Cardinals fatal flaw and exploited it for a walkoff victory! No, not their less than spectacular bullpen. I mean Mike Matheny‘s blindspot for Adam Wainwright.

Sure, Wainwright was cruising and had only thrown just 98 pitches headed into the ninth inning. With the “heart” of the Angels lineup due up, Mike Matheny opted to leave Wainwright in to face Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Howie Kendrick.

Pujols greeted Wainwright with a slider and that was the end of the night for the Cards ace. Perhaps one batter too late, Matheny went to his closer Edward Mujica, who pitched the night before in mop up duty designed to just get him work, hasn’t been quite as sharp of late, surrendering two home runs and five hits in his last five combined outings.

Josh Hamiton greeted Mujica and his nasty splitter in a very rude way indeed.

Two singles later the Angels were in a very threatening position, with runners on the corners and nobody out. Mujica battled back to retire the next two Angels but Erick Aybar slapped the above walkoff single into left field and the party began. Second guessing is easy but that’s the way it works in this biz, amirite?

The Cardinals don’t have bullpen problems quite as bad as recent years, which isn’t to say they couldn’t stand to upgrade some parts of their pen. As they are the Cardinals, they have myriad options should the choose to bolster their pen.

Trade one of your zillion prospect chips for a proven relief ace or just move one of zillion hyped arms into the bullpen, ala the 2012 playoff pen featuring current 2+ fWAR starter Shelby Miller and setup king Trevor Rosenthal? They’re the Cardinals, they do whatever they please.

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