Apr 21, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) watches some of the seventh inning against the New York Yankees from the dugout at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
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The Tigers and Verlander have been playing around with his triceps cramp, which became a strain, which became fatigue, which became he is not throwing until he is completely pain free. Now, the Tigers have announced that Verlander will accompany the team on their 10-game road trip.
Verlander’s accompaniment on the road trip doesn’t mean anything. He may throw on the road trip, but he definitely will not be making a start. He could serve as a presence in the dugout to help team morale, but that is all he is right now. Verlander’s struggles in 2014 were well documented. Here are the numbers, just in case you forgot: he went 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.398 WHIP. He has regressed every season since his Cy Young and MVP season in 2011 an increasing ERA and WHIP each year (even though he was still marvelous in 2012).
In 2015, expectations for Verlander fluctuated between his core surgery was the reason for his struggles so he will return to 2012 form, to a continued regression where his ERA will be over 5, to somewhere in between. I fell in the third camp and believed his ERA would be around 4 as he recovered from his surgery, but he would never return to his dominant form. The triceps injury has pushed more people to that camp.
For now, Verlander’s injury is slightly benefiting the Tigers. Most teams have injury insurance policies on their players and I would believe the Tigers have one on Verlander who is making $28 million this season. The Tigers are saving the money they would be paying an injured Verlander who would not be performing nowhere near his peak.
The Tigers also have a pitcher who is performing better than Verlander would be now in Kyle Lobstein. Lobstein did not look good with his stuff last Tuesday against the New York Yankees, but he battled through the start. He is currently 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP in three starts.
At some point this season, the Detroit Tigers will need Justin Verlander to return and pitch well enough to help his team get to the postseason in an ultra-competitive American League Central Division. It is better to hold out Verlander as long as the team can so he will return healthy. There would be very few things that would be worse than Verlander rushing back, not performing well, and either keep playing hurt or have another DL stint. Verlander is no longer the ace of this staff, but Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon will return to earth this season. Verlander will need to be there and be solid enough to help this staff.