Basically, the Tigers give up five runs per start unless Verlander is pitching. They’re 21-8 when he starts and 54-54 when he doesn’t. Fourteen times, he’s followed a Tigers loss by winning the next game. He’s pitched at least six innings in each of his 29 starts. He’s thrown 104 pitches or more in every start. He’s first in wins (20), WHIP, strikeouts, innings pitched; second in ERA (trailing Jered Weaver by just 0.10) and WAR (trailing only Bautista). You can only pick him apart because he’s pitched half his games in a pitcher’s park; that’s why his ERA+ is only 168 (barely ahead of Weaver’s 164). By pure numbers, Bautista’s season is a little more impressive than Verlander’s season, which is why the WAR differential (8.0 for Bautista, 7.3 for Verlander) makes sense.
Then you consider the pressure Verlander faced for five months (and counting) as the ace of a mediocre team. Every time he pitched, he HAD to go seven or more, he HAD to save their bullpen and they HAD to win. What it’s like to fall asleep every night knowing that every teammate, coach and fan is counting on you, that you’re basically holding an elaborate stack of Jenga blocks together by yourself, that you can’t escape, that you can’t have a shitty day, that you can’t check out, that you can’t do anything other than keep pitching at an extraordinarily high level or your team’s entire season is going to fall apart? Is there a bigger responsibility in sports? If Bautista had been “average” this season, Toronto’s fortunes wouldn’t have changed. If Verlander had been “average” this season, Detroit would be headed for fourth place and total obscurity. Instead, nobody in his right mind wants to see Justin Verlander in a seven-game series right now. … Read More