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Detroit Tigers: Effect of Justin Verlander’s groin on his mechanics

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May 9, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander throws in the sixth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
May 9, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander throws in the sixth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander left his last start two batters into the third inning in Sunday’s walk-off win over the White Sox with groin tightness.

While the discomfort doesn’t appear that it will cost Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander a start, it was a tough outing for the former MVP.

He was visited by Brad Ausmus and the team trainer in the second inning, but they decided to let him pitch through it.

The pair reappeared from the dugout in the third ending the game for Verlander.

It was described by the team in a tweet as tightness in his right groin, which is his drive leg.

Something like that doesn’t seem like it should effect the command and effectiveness of Verlander. However, that was the case on Sunday.

When he left the game, he had thrown 72 pitches.  Even for an established workhorse in the Detroit Tigers rotation, that number in the third inning means something is not right.

Admittedly, some of it could do with the fact that this is not his best year.

At 34, Verlander is fighting Father Time as much as almost any pitcher in the league.  That being said, his delivery is such that the groin tightness would play a huge role in the command of the game.

That can be summed up by the last batter he faced, where he walked Yolmer Sanchez on four straight pitches.

Elevation

Many times during the game he was throwing the ball up or too far over the plate.  That is a result of how his groin tightness was affecting his mechanics.  The slight change in the lower half of his delivery cause a bigger change to where his arm was when releasing the ball.

Verlander’s arms and legs work together during the delivery process as well, if not better than any other pitcher in the league.  That is due to the fact he starts everything in sync.

When he turns his body so his shoulder is facing the plate, he raises his hands up to chest.  The genius behind doing that is how his front leg follows.

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As soon as the knee reaches his hands in the balance position, his hands break.  That movement is what allows for the perfect timing.

Stride

The other big part to that timing is the stride.  Each pitcher will know how far to stride out in order for the arm to be in the right spot.  It is something that is naturally learned.

When Verlander experienced tightness in his drive leg, that is when things went awry mechanically.

He was either compensating for the pain, or was physically unable to stride out to the normal position, therefor altering his timing.

Because of the change in the lower half, his arm was not able to catch up to where it usually is when it was time to release the ball.

The overall result is that insteasd of being completely out front upon the time of release, Verlander’s arm was slightly more back. That will cause problems with command regardless of who is pitching.

The good news

Here is the good news, Verlander was still touching 97 MPH with groin tightness.

When age starts to take it’s toll on a pitcher, the first two things to go, in general, are velocity and stamina.  While it is not the 100 MPH in the ninth inning that brought JV to national prominence years ago, 97 is nothing scoff at.

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Even with mid to upper 90s on the fastball, he was not blowing away a lackluster White Sox lineup.  This is partially due to the loss of command, but his curveball was still phenomenal.

When he was able to get on top of the curve, which was most of the time, it had elite 12 to 6 drop.  It is the pitch that could extend Verlander’s career.

Pitching backwards

Pitching backwards is a philosophy that seems to be reserved for craft lefties. However, with a curve like JV’s, it is a true option.

Starting early in the count with breaking balls and changeups gives the batter a different look.  Then, by the 0-2 or 1-2 count, a mid nineties fastball looks faster than it already is.

Verlander still has a big fastball and may not need to pitch backwards.  It is not a call to worry, he is not having a bad season.

In fact, if the Detroit Tigers offense could have hit Eric Skoglund, his record looks a lot better than it does now.

That being said, deception is key to pitching and a power pitcher using a plus curveball more often to get ahead will certainly add deception.

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The fact remains that Verlander is a competitor.  He didn’t want to give up the ball even though he was in pain.  It looks like he won’t miss his next start and the workhorse who goes deep into games should be back in action.

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