Have we already seen the best of Justin Verlander?
Scratched from today’s start because of back stiffness, it may be time to consider that we’ve likely already seen the best years of Justin Verlander’s career. At 32-years of age, he simply isn’t the same player. His velocity is down, ERA is up and durability is becoming a major concern. Getting off to an un-Verlander like 6.17 ERA to begin the season, he isn’t striking out batters like he used to. In fact, his strikeout per nine innings rate has declined from 10.1, at his best, to a shutter inducing 3.1 in 2015. It may be time to start worrying about what level he can continue to play at for the Detroit Tigers.
Hopefully this season is just a dreadfully unlucky aberration, the result of simple wear and tear caused by an immense work load. Unfortunately, Verlander’s statistical trends aren’t pointing in a positive direction. Each of the last five seasons has seen an increase in his ERA, hits given up per nine innings, as well as a decrease in innings pitched. Likewise, velocity doesn’t usually increase as a player ages. It’s a tough idea to accept, but a return to ace status, let alone historically dominant form, doesn’t seem reasonable.