By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Justin Verlander understands the expectations people have of him, and he acknowledges he has not met them through the first half of the season.
“Nobody can set standards higher than I do for myself,” Verlander said. “I expect the best out of me every time I go out there. If that’s impossible or not, who knows? I expect the best. I consider the first half a grind and a battle for me personally.
“You look up at the end of the first half, and I was able to battle to some pretty good numbers, considering it was a battle,” Verlander continued. “Not where I would’ve liked to be, but hey, just keep working at it, and hopefully the second half, things fall into place, things start clicking right and then who knows where you’re going to end up.”
Before the All-Star break of 2011, Verlander never went fewer than six innings, and in seven of his 14 outings he went eight or more. Before the All-Star break of 2012, Verlander had also lasted six or more in all 13 starts, and he went eight or more in six of those 13.
This season, Verlander struggled to pitch late into games. In five of his 19 starts before the 2013 All-Star break, Verlander lasted five innings or fewer.
Verlander finished the first half with an ERA of 3.71 – considerably higher than his 2.89 in 2011 and 2.69 in 2012.
“I know I was inconsistent,” Verlander said. “I wasn’t where I’d like to be pretty much the whole half but was able to battle and end up with some pretty decent numbers and hopefully just continue to trend better and better and have a strong second half.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland still chose Verlander for the All-Star Game, despite the fact his numbers are uncharacteristic of the sky-high standard that Verlander – who won the Cy Young and the MVP in 2011 – set for himself.
“He’s been a very good major league pitcher that has expectations that are almost impossible to live up to,” Leyland said. “
Recently, though, the pitcher has been looking more like what people expect. In his last four stars before the break, Verlander went at least seven innings. He allowed just two runs June 29, no runs July 4, five runs July 9 (after an unfortunate final inning) and no runs again July 14.
Verlander told ESPN Radio several weeks earlier that he changed up his shoulder angle after watching video of his pitching years past. He said it made a major difference.
“It’s been very helpful for my fastball location,” Verlander said. ”Ever since I started working on fixing that, besides the one inning against the White Sox the other night, it’s been night and day difference for me. It’s just creating a better angle, making me hit my spots better.”
Verlander is confident he will continue to improve through the second half of the season. Why so sure?
“Just knowing me,” Verlander said. “The will to get things right and not just be OK with OK numbers for me. There’s always that desire to be the best. That’s not going to change one way or the other.”