Friday, June 15, 2012

Justin Verlander – Just as Good as Last Year

…and maybe even better.

Justin Verlander only has a .600 winning percentage this year (6-4 W/L) compared to last year’s .828 winning percentage (24-5 W/L).  Also, he’s ERA is higher (2.66 compared to 2.40 last year) as well as his WHIP (0.97 compared to 0.92 last year).  Looking at these old school stats, one could conclude that Verlander is slightly worse this year than last year.  However, we’re in an age where more information is available and that information says that Verlander has been even better than these stats suggest.

Winning percentage is dependent on run support and a good bullpen.  Last year, Verlander had 4.7 runs of support /game; this year, it’s only 3.4 runs/game.  Also, last year, the Tigers won every game leading after the 7th inning.  This year, they haven’t been as perfect, losing 5 games leading after the 7th inning.  ERA and WHIP is somewhat dependent on the defense; if the defense can’t make a play because of poor range, then it’ll go as a hit instead of an error.  The Tigers’ defense this year has been below average – way below average.  The Tigers rank 29th in both UZR and DRS. 

Several defensive independent stats:
2011 Verlander – 2.99 FIP, 3.12* xFIP, 3.09 tERA, 2.99 SIERA
2012 Verlander – 2.54* FIP, 3.18 xFIP, 3.03* tERA, 2.95* SIERA

*Career bests.

All very close to last year and all better than last year except for xFIP.  xFIP adjusts for the league average HR rate.  Last year, Verlander had an 8.8% HR/FB, the highest it’s been since 2006 when it was 10.3%.  This year, it’s only 6.1%.  Verlander has always had a lower than average HR rate, so maintaining that this year isn’t out of the question.  However, his career is 7.7%, so a slight increase could be expected.  FIP also heavily factors in strikeout rates and Verlander has a higher K/9 this year than last year (9.12 in 2012; 8.79 in 2011).

His WHIP is higher this year, despite having the same BB rate (2.04 BB/9).  His LD rate is up this year to 22.6% compared to 17.7% last year and thus his BABIP is higher (.265 compared to .236 last year).  However, his batting against line is pretty close to last year’s:

2011 - .192/.242/.313/.555
2012 - .205/.254/.314/.568

His slugging against is almost exactly the same as last year.  Again, this is mainly due to the lower HR rate.  His ground ball percentage is almost exactly the same as last year (40.2% in 2011; 40.0% in 2012).  This means that some of the fly balls that were hit last year and being changed into line drives this year.  However, this is an arbitrary stat; sometimes there is little difference between a line drive and a fly ball.  For example, Baseball-reference shows Verlander having a 19% LD rate this year and a 17% LD rate in 2011.  Still higher, so there is proof that Verlander has been a little bit more hittable this year.  However, the higher strikeout rate and lower HR rate kind of balances it out.

His swinging strike rate (swing and misses/total pitches) is at 11.7% this year and his contact rate is only at 75.3% this year, both are career bests for him.  Verlander has an fWAR of 3.4 in 14 starts this year; at that rate he’ll have an 8.3 fWAR in 34 starts, which will match is career high set in 2009 (Verlander has a 7.0 fWAR last year).  At his current pace, Verlander could have the best season of his career this year.

Just imagine how Verlander would look on even an average defensive team.

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