When it comes to baseball pitchers, most fans focus on pitch speed. This makes sense. The 100-mph-fastball is a pop culture/athletic touchstone, and who hasn’t been to a carnival in central Ontario and tried to throw three hard pitches at the same velocity while your ten-year-old brain realizes the km/h readings on the gun have little meaning to your life? But in general, if you throw the ball faster, it’s harder to hit, right?
One of the biggest baseball stories through the first half of the season is the noticeable (and noticed, obviously) drop in pitch velocity for flamethrower Justin Verlander. Coupled with middling success (when compared with recent, historic-level years), falling pitch speed is the ready response for writers attempting diagnoses of Verlander’s struggles. (C.C. Sabathia has fallen under similarly themed scrutiny.)
While the real reason for Verlander’s struggles likely exists within a more complex mix of factors, the popular focus on pitch speed provides a good entry point for introducing two other pitching components that probably are more important than velocity alone and that are easy for casual fans to understand and track. (That’s the whole point of this series of posts, after all.)
During Justin Verlander’s 8K, 1 run, 7 2/3 inning retribution against the Twins last night that ended in a 7-1 Tiger victory, the Fox Sports Detroit crew ran a graphic comparing Verlander’s numbers so far this season with the 2010 final season numbers for Felix Hernandez, the reigning AL Cy Young winner. The comparison looked something* like this:
Verlander became this seasons’ first eighteen-game winner last night, his sixth straight win. There are about five weeks remaining in the regular season, during which time Verlander will try to cement his claim to the Cy Young Award against contenders Jered Weaver and C.C. Sabathia.
* It looked almost nothing like this, but it might if FSD’s on-air talent, Rod and Mario, had to do their own infographics too.