Verlander’s No-Hitter

After Verlander’s second start of the year I commented that JV seemed to be throwing his change-up more on crucial counts.  It was not rooted in any scout-like acuity, but just a casual observation from a guy who watches too much Tigers baseball much like you do.  My recollection is that JV primarily has relied on his fastball and curveball, and on nights when his curveball isn’t working, that leaves him susceptible.

Well, his change-up has been working all year, and on Saturday he threw his slider with great frequency.  This could be very, very bad news for AL hitters.  It also represents further maturation by JV (dare I say “the art of pitching?”) an important point not lost on Jack Morris.

According to Fangraphs, JV has been throwing his change-up 19.6% of the time this year, which is the highest percentage since Pitch f/X started tracking theses things in 2007 , and likely the highest of his career.  He’s always used it to setup the fastball, but using it to get outs early, or as a bona fide strikeout pitch, will help him to become an even stronger pitcher.  Another benefit is that the change-up early in the game allows him to throw his less taxing fastball (four seamer at 92-94) in the opening innings but make them look faster because of the change of speed.  We are all well aware of JV’s perpetual early inning troubles and “over-pitching” is as much of a culprit as there is (though I still like blaming the national anthem singer).  If he can use his change-up earlier in the game, or at least pitch to contact with what is still a plus fastball, then he can stay in games longer.

Season FA% CU% CH% SL% FT%
2007 61.80% 16.10% 19.00% 1.90% 1.10%
2008 60.80% 14.10% 15.30% 6.20% 2.90%
2009 67.20% 19.40% 10.00% 2.80% 0.20%
2010 52.00% 19.90% 14.30% 6.80% 7.00%
2011 46.30% 16.70% 19.60% 7.70% 9.60%
Total 59.40% 17.60% 14.20% 5.00% 3.50%


Season FA-Vel CU-Vel CH-Vel SL-Vel FT-Vel
2007 94.1 79.4 82.3 83.1 83.7
2008 93.7 80.3 83.6 82.4 89.1
2009 95.6 80.1 84.2 86.6 89.2
2010 95.5 79.6 85.7 87.2 93.6
2011 95.1 78.5 86.3 86.2 94.5
Total 94.9 79.8 84.3 85.3 92.4


(Fangraphs link here.  FA = four-seamer, FT = two-seamer.)

Now, if you weren’t already convinced that JV has 5 more no-no’s in him, the really exciting stuff is that he’s throwing his slider more and more (including 4 out of 6 pitches against Rajai Davis for the last AB on Saturday, remember that was the pitch for the last K), which means that he could develop a legitimate 5 pitch repertoire (four seamer, two seamer, curve, change, slider).  Unfortunately, we don’t have great Pitch f/x data for Saturday’s game.  But from what we can see, he threw a ton of sliders, and is throwing more sliders this year (7.7%) than ever (compared to 5% for his career).

For the first time since making the bigs, JV is throwing his fastball less than 50% of the time.  (I actually don’t have data on this for 2005 & 2006, but I’m willing to be Coleman’s clown suit that this is the case.)  He’s throwing his slider, two-seamer and change-up more than ever.  JV has always had dominant stuff, arguably the best in the AL.  But he’s been prone to high pitch counts and chasing the strikeout, which have kept him from being the best in the AL.  Let’s see if Saturday’s effort is an indication that JV is ready to move from best in Detroit to best in the AL.


  1. Vince in MN

    May 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Could someone please give me a defintion of “pitch to contact.” Every time I hear that phrase I imagine dad pitching a whiffle ball underhanded to his 5-year old from about 6 feet away and saying “now hit this son.” My theory of pitching is to throw your best stuff (not just a 100mph fastball) for strikes and let the batter worry about the contact. I’m sure I must be mssing something here.

    • Kevin in Dallas

      May 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      You know those hot/cold zones that show-up on Gameday? Hitting the cold ones within the zone will usually work. Movement on a two-seamer, keeping stuff down in the zone, these work as well. I’m sure someone who knows way more than me will chime in with a more useful retort.

  2. Coleman

    May 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    “Pitch to contact:” Defined as what opposing pitchers do with Magglio Ordonez at the plate.

    • Vince in MN

      May 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm

      And there it is.

  3. Coleman

    May 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Is that a typo above, or are you really willing to “be” my clown suit? Because that thought is making me feel a bit uncomfortable…

  4. Vince in MN

    May 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    By the way, I’ll be at the game tomorrow night – my first trip to Target Field. The weather has not been particularly nice here this Spring – much cold and wet so far – but the forecast for tomorrow is partly cloudy with the temp over 80, meaning still warm in the evening, which should be perfect baseball weather. Despite Liriano’s no-no, he hasn’t been very good this year (more walks than ks surprisingly) and I think the matchup should actually favor the Tigers with the way Porcello has been going, and the fact that the Twins have practically no offense. However, Seattle has no offense either (and we know how that went), so I don’t want to jump the gun and predict anything. I just hope it isn’t a Tiger clown show out there since I’ll be with my most rabid Twins fan friend and don’t want to be embarassed. I refused to go to the games when they played in the dome, so I’m looking forward to this.

  5. Kevin in Dallas

    May 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I bet that monkey I hired to proofread lied on her resume.

  6. hsbaseballdad

    May 12, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks Verlander is under rated? Yea everyone knows he is good but how many pitchers can hit triple digits on the gun, and carry a team like Verlander.