Denny McLain on the Maturation of Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander is becoming a true Major League Baseball star.  His latest performances are nothing short of superb.  For all you Dads and Moms out there with thoughts of producing a Justin Verlander, let me explain to you what Verlander does better than 90% of major league pitchers:

It’s all about fundamentals.  Good pitchers hold their heads still; good pitchers throw strikes on the first pitch; and good pitchers have their lead shoulder facing the hitters at home plate. Those are the things that Verlander does better than almost all pitchers in baseball today.

The next time he pitches, watch how still his head is when he throws to the plate. He is supremely talented, but if his fundamentals were flawed, he would not be having the success that he is currently enjoying.

For his first few years in the big leagues, Verlander won with raw talent.  Now he has harnessed that talent and matured into a live, thinking Major League pitcher.  He now understands the “art.”

Perhaps he listened to advice or simply woke up one morning and matured (or maybe he read our columns about the “ART OF PITCHING”) because he has grown into a really serious Major League pitcher.

Oh yeah, I did forget to tell you one thing: the Good Lord has gifted Verlander with great stuff and great control.  With great stuff, great control and lots of support he has become something very special.

Verlander not only throws strikes, he is now able to throw all of his pitches for strikes at any time — and that is the definition of a Major League pitcher.   He also no longer tries to strike every one out.

Like all great pitchers, Verlander now realizes that baseball is made up of nine players on defense. So throwing strikes on the first pitch makes the game easier and makes the hitters swing and hit the ball into play.  This strategy makes the games quicker and saves on the stress and wear on his arm.

When Mickey Lolich and I were pitching, a normal game would take less than 2 hours and 15 minutes. We would throw in the neighborhood of 110 pitches with our share of strikeouts.  Verlander is doing the same thing now:  short games and fewer pitches.

If Verlander was pitching on a 4-day rotation, we might have a better sense of how good he can be, but regardless, I can assure you he is very, very good.

The 5-day rotation distorts performance because the guys who pitched on the 4-day rotations really were iron guys:  300 innings, lots of complete games, low ERAs.   And pitching every fourth day caused lots of injuries, and required frequent cortisone shots and all sorts of medicines and elixirs.

In contrast, Verlander and his talent are well protected.   The Tigers watch everything that he does and every move he makes.  A 5-day rotation will help protect his arm and has helped to make Verlander the best of the best in the American League.

If you really want to see what Verlander is all about, my advice is to go out to the ballpark and watch him pitch.  Seeing his stuff in person is a whole lot better than listening, watching and hearing two guys in the announcer’s booth screaming and yelling one adjective after another and killing us with stat after stat of anything that they can find.  (Guys, enough with the stats already!  Enough with the “99 mph fastball” and the “80 mph curveball.”  It is great promotional stuff but hardly accurate.)

If the Tigers had a couple more pitchers (or at least one more that we could depend on) who were more consistent that would almost guarantee a division championship.  I fear that no one else has the continuity of being able to be what is required. My God, Jim Leland has one hell of a tough job.  After his starters, he has to figure out which three or four guys he can use each night and hope for success, with the exception of Verlander’s starts.

With hitting that is better than just about anyone else in baseball right now, we only need a couple pitchers to keep our guys close for 4-5 innings and “wham, bam, thank you ma’m” our guys will score. But we need some other pitching.

It would also help if we could make a deal for a hitting third baseman and a second baseman.

Here’s what I would do:

1)      Trade Rick Porcello NOW! He will never have more value than he has at this moment. Trade him for either a very good third baseman or a good second baseman or if you can fool someone, maybe you can get both positions traded. There are plenty of teams around who will take Porcello thinking he will be a very good pitcher.  Well I hate to tell you this, because I said the same thing about Bonderman: he won’t be!

2)      Throw in Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn: If anyone will take them let them go, but go get yourself a real third baseman or second baseman.  Those two positions will kill you if you don’t have guys playing up to the Major League standard.

Front office alert: Make the trades that need to be done and give the fans what they deserve:  a division winner.   And then who knows what can happen in a couple short series.  Yup, if we just make a couple moves, this could be the year.

2 replies on “Denny McLain on the Maturation of Justin Verlander

  • Dan Holmes

    I have to say this (and it’s not just because I write for this website), I agree with practically everything that Denny says in this article. Verlander has taken a huge step forward because of his fundamentals. Also, couldn’t agree more that Porcello should be traded now, as his value will only decrease while the Tigers wait 2-3 more years to see if he’ll become an ace. He won’t. Inge is chewing up at-bats that should be given to a real major league hitter. He’s terrible and no one will give up much for him at all, so he should be released or thrown in a deal as an add-on. Raburn may actually have some value, since he’s younger and can probably slug 20 homers in the right ballpark. I’d also consider dealing Valverde after this season, his value will soon plummet.

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