Detroit Tigers 2014 Grades: Justin Verlander

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. SP. Detroit Tigers. JUSTIN VERLANDER. D+

Justin Verlander had the worst season of his career in 2014. While we felt that Verlander was on the cusp of a C- grade for a strong finish to the regular season, ultimately we decided on a grade of D+ simply because the Detroit Tigers and their fans expected “Justin Verlander” to be pitching every fifth day for the team. Instead we got a gussied up version of Brad Penny.

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Perhaps this grade and performance review is harsh. After all, Verlander did have core muscle surgery late in the last off-season. He did not appear until the end of Spring Training, but was given the Opening Day starting gig from new manager Brad Ausmus.

Verlander, like the rest of the starting staff, pitched well at the beginning of the season, helping the team to an MLB-best 27-12 record on May 18. After that, he fell apart.

Even while J.V. was pitching well, one thing that was a cause for concern was his drastic drop in strikeouts and a noticeable lack of swing and misses to opposing batters. Nonetheless, Verlander sported an ERA below three during the Tigers’ hot start, but a brutal stretch during May sunk his season in a hurry.

From May 14 to June 16, spanning seven starts, Justin allowed three or more runs in each start. The three runs was actually a decent outing during that span. Of the six other games, Verlander allowed 5, 5, 9, 6, 7, and 7 runs with only four runs during that stretch coming unearned.

Verlander actually pitched okay after that point, with a few hiccups along the way. He failed to make the All-Star Game for the first time since 2008 and experienced the shortest outing of his career on Aug. 11 at Pittsburgh after allowing five runs (four earned) on four hits with three walks in just one inning. He left that game after hitting in the first inning due to a right shoulder strain and missed his next start, the first time that has happened in his career.

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Astros have return date in mind for ace Justin Verlander
Astros have return date in mind for ace Justin Verlander /

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  • Down the stretch, Verlander was sharp, but was not great in ALDS Game 2 against Baltimore. He allowed three runs on six hits in five innings–not terrible considering he had a lot of run support in that game, but because the bullpen was pressed into service so early, it helped the ensuing collapse in the game and put Detroit in an 0-2 hole.

    A lot of question marks concerned the Tigers’ offense, defense, and bullpen heading into this season. One of the question marks was not starting pitching, but it turned out to be perhaps the most disappointing unit on the team because of lofty expectations, finishing near the bottom of the AL in ERA.

    No one is held up to higher expectations than Verlander, with his large contract, his awards, and his skills. Just two seasons ago, J.V. was a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, now fans are nervous when he takes the mound.

    We could give Verlander the benefit of the doubt. He was recovering from surgery and Dave Dombrowski acknowledged it as a factor after the season. He can come back to be the ace of the staff–he HAS to come back to be the ace of the staff, especially with Max Scherzer likely gone. Also, with all the innings he has pitched since 2011, this will be the most rest he’s received since the off-season prior to that season. Rest did him well that year, earning him an MVP and Cy Young Award.

    Nonetheless, regardless of the factors, this past season was a failure for Verlander.

    Here’s hoping “Must See JV” returns for 2015 and beyond. I have not yet lost faith.

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