Saturday, September 29, 2007

No Sophomore Slump for Verlander

Last season, Justin Verlander posted a 3.66 ERA in 186 innings in an excellent rookie season. However, skeptics saw the signs of a sophomore slump on the horizon. His fielding independent statistics (strikeouts, walks and homers) were unremarkable. He pitched a lot of innings for a young rookie and had a tired arm in the second half. His ERA in August and September was 5.82. Although, most people felt he had a great future ahead of him, many projected somewhat of a decline in his sophomore season.

Tonight, Verlander pitched his final game of the 2007 season and got a no decision in a 3-2 loss to the White Sox. He allowed 2 runs in 6 innings to finish with 18 wins and a 3.66 ERA for the season. Last year, he won 17 games and had a 3.63 ERA. At first glance, there does not look like there is much difference between the two seasons.

However, a look at the table below shows that he was significantly better this year. First and foremost, his strikeout rate increased from 6 per 9 innings in 2006 to over 8 per 9 innings in 2007. Since his walk rate stayed about the same (just under 3 per 9 innings), his K/BB ratio increased from 2.07 to 2.73. Hitters also hit for less power this year as seen in slugging average against which dropped from .414 to .370. Batting average against also decreased from .266 to .241 and OPS from .742 to .688.

Last year, he was good but also a bit lucky with the defense turning 25 double plays behind him. This year, there were only 11 double plays. although his ground ball rate was about the same. He also stranded an extraordinary 78.3% of his base runners last year compared to 74.7% this year. Left on base percentage is not a random stat but it's not highly consistent either so there was likely some luck involved there last year. I don't have the stats to back it up but some of that might have been the bullpen helping him out more in 2006.

Perhaps the best thing about his season was his consistency compared to last year when he faltered down the stretch. After a brief summer slump this year, he finished strong with no sign of a tired arm. He was good last year, better this year and his future looks as bright as any young pitcher in the game.


Table: Justin Verlander's Stats in 2006 vs. 2007

2006

2007

G

30

32

IP

186

201 2/3

W/L

17-9

18-6

ERA

3.63

3.66

K/9

6.00

8.17

BB/9

2.90

2.99

K/BB

2.07

2.73

HR/9

1.02

0.89

BAA

.266

.241

OBPA

.328

.318

SLGA

.414

.370

OPSA

.742

.688

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