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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Scouting Report, RHP Justin Verlander

This 27-year old righty signed a 5-year, $80 million dollar contract extension this off-season and received one 1st place vote for the Cy Young last year (he had a great year, but not above Zach or King Felix), while finishing 3rd in the voting. He was the 2nd overall pick in 2004 out of Old Dominion University by the Tigers, and made his major league debut less than a year later (July 4, 2005). He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2006 (17-9, 3.63 ERA). This is his 5th full year as a starting pitcher, and the last four years he's made 30+ starts, and 200+ innings the last three years, including 240 last year. He's 73-47 for his career, with a 3.88 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He has never faced the Mets in his career.

Verlander has outstanding, filthy, great, whatever adjective you want to use, Stuff. His fastball AVERAGES 96 mph (gained 2 mph between 2008 and 2009) and can touch 100 mph (8 times this year, 15 last year). He has started to mix in a 2-seam fastball 10% of the time, and that is thrown around 94 mph.  He also throws a power curve 20% of the time (80 mph), a change that fades from lefties 14% of the time (86 mph), while also occasionally mixing in a quick slider (88 mph). His three main pitches (fast, change and curve) are all plus to plus-plus pitches. He's throwing 1st pitch strikes 65% of the time this year (league average 58%). All that sounds great, but the biggest concern is the significant mileage/abuse his arm sustained last year. He lead the league in number of pitches by a significant margin (10% more than anyone else), and he once again leads the league in pitches per start (> 112). He has a big body (6'5", 225 pounds), but it remains to be seen if the high pitch counts will have any impact on his long-term durability.

This year, he's 8-4 in 14 starts (94 IP), with a 3.54 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He is striking out 8.1 per 9 innings, and walking less than 3/9 (last year his K/9 was 10+, BB/9 2.36). He's a fly-ball pitcher, but does minimize home runs (7 in 94 innings this year). He's gone 7+ innings in eight of the 14 starts, including his last six starts. He has made four straight quality starts. In his last start for the Nationals, he threw 8 innings, allowing only 7 hits (2 home runs surprisingly), zero walks, 3 runs, and 11 strike-outs.

He is being paid like an ace, and he is a legit ace. He will be an annual cy young candidate as long as his arm can handle the abuse. His top comps are: Sabathia (2008), Oswalt (2005) , Peavy (2008), Santana (2006).

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