Gerald Laird joked prior to last season that Justin Verlander – who was hitless at the plate in his career – should simply consider himself in the middle of an 0-6 slump. O-for-six years, that was. And then Verlander stepped to the plate eight times in 2012 and came away without a hit (though he did have four successful sacrifice bunts!). He’s now hitless (walkless, and hit-by-pitchless) in 33 career plate appearances – 36 if we include postseason.
We obviously can’t know when his first knock will come, but we can take a look at this year’s schedule to guess when he might be in the situation where he needs to hit. Having interleague games sprinkled regularly throughout the season will make things interesting this year, but if we pencil in Verlander as the opening day starter and look every fifth day, we would come across the following games in which he’d start in a National League ballpark. Here’s the complete list:
Saturday, September 28, at Miami Marlins
That’s it. That’s the entire list. If Verlander was to make his 33 regularly scheduled starts, his only opportunity to swing the bat would come on the second to last day of the season. And if the Tigers have the division all locked up like I expect them to, there’s a decent chance he doesn’t pitch that day in preparation for the playoffs. And even if he were to make that start with the division in hand, there’s a good chance that he’s either pulled from the game after only an inning or two or commanded not to swing the bat.
Pitching rotations are constantly being disrupted though. Maybe there’s a rain delay or two mixed in or perhaps someone gets hurt and Jim Leyland decides it would be better to use an off-day to skip Casey Crosby’s turn and pitch Verlander on normal rest rather than stick with the straight five-man rotation.
With that in mind, if Verlander were to be pulled up one day at any point in the season after opening day (and subsequently pitch every fifth game), his opportunities to hit would come on:
Friday, September 27, at Miami Marlins
If he were, over the course of the season, pulled up two days, he would still only find one opportunity to hit:
Saturday, August 24, at New York Mets
Perhaps more likely, or at least, equally likely would be the chance that one or more of his starts gets pushed back due to rain. If he were to slide back even one day, his chances to swing the lumber would increase threefold:
Tuesday, May 7, at Washington Nationals
Wednesday, May 29, at Pittsburgh Pirates
Sunday, September 29, at Miami Marlins
In reality though, it’s impossible to predict how the pitching rotation will fall. There are two points in the season where off-days fall on Monday and Thursday in the same week, those could be opportunities to move Verlander up rather than giving him too much extra rest between starts.
We can’t truly predict when Verlander’s next plate appearance will come, but we’ll all be rooting for that base hit to come after he digs in. If he does get a hit in his first plate appearance, he’d see his batting average rocket up to .040 (and his BABIP jump to .091)! Look out Miggy!