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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Tigers' Overused Ace

While I have the opinion that no pitcher should ever win the Most Valuable Player of the year award, Detroit Tigers' ace Justin Verlander pitched like a MVP last season. However, he only pitched like a MVP during the regular season. When he hit the postseason, he burned out. This year, he's off to minor slow start but I will expect him to get hot in the later months. But if the Tigers do make the playoffs, I believe he will be flat and average like he was last postseason and it has nothing to do with him being clutch or not. It has to do with physical fatigue.

I love Manager Jim Leyland and I think he's a smart manager but I think he might be relying on his star ace too much. In the past three season, Verlander is averaging 238.1 innings pitched per season (251.o innings pitch in 2011).  In his 34 starting appearances, he was averaging 115 pitches per appearance. This is a huge workload for a guy that can throw 97 mph, 98mph and even 100 mph into the late innings. Also, there are no signs this enormous workload is going to stop.
If Verlander were to keep up the current pace he is on for the 2012 season, he would finish with this workload: At least 34 starting appearances, 247 innings pitched and 113 pitches per appearance. That's a lot to ask of one player and also he might be called on the pitch on 3 days rest in the postseason.

I think this workload is too much even for a player like Verlander. I'm not questioning his fitness. I just don't believe a guy that pitches that much per regular season can physically hold it together. The body can't take it. Thus, the player struggles in the postseason because of the wear and tear of the regular season. 

This is an easy fix for Jim Leyland. Don't let him throw more than 110 pitches per appearance. The magic number of pitches in baseball is a 100. Baseball expects believe that's when a pitcher begins to fatigue and when the hitters pick up his tendencies and pitches. Verlander can still pitch nine innings but he would have to do it under 110 pitch, which he did when he threw his no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays last year.

I know Verlander's a competitor and wants to pitch every inning but he needs to be effective in the postseason not the regular season. Leyland needs to eliminate these outings where he is throwing 131 pitches for a complete game (He did this in a 3-2 win @ Kansas City). Not a shutout, not a no-hitter, not a perfect game. Detroit has a bullpen, use it. They had the best closer in baseball in Jose Valverde last year, use him. Save Verlander for a inning (equivalent to 10-20 pitches thrown).  Verlander may hate it but he'll thank you when you're celebrating a World Series Championship in the future.

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