By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Watching Justin Verlander do postgame interviews throughout this season, one impression of the Detroit Tigers pitcher stands out above all the others. The hurler is clearly unaccustomed to – and somewhat uncomfortable with – not being dominant.
In 2011 and 2012, Verlander seemed untouchable. He pitched more innings than any other American League starter – with 10 complete games between those two seasons – and he also recorded more strikeouts than anyone else. His ERA was 2.40 in 2011 and 2.64 in 2012, and he finished first and second, respectively, in Cy Young voting those years.
This season, there were questions of whether Verlander should even go to the All-Star game, something he had earned five of the last six seasons after being chosen Rookie of the Year in 2006, his first full season.
Unlike Verlander, Tigers manager Jim Leyland thinks the solution to the pitcher’s woes is to return to the basics.
Verlander has spoken often about his efforts to tweak his delivery throughout the season in an effort to get back to where he has been. With the other starters pitching so well, the weight of the world is not on his shoulders, and he has had the luxury of playing with various adjustments to see if they can help him.
Though Leyland conceded readily that he and Verlander often have different ideas about what needs to be done, the skipper has faith that all will work out if Verlander stays true to what he has always done.
“I’m always reluctant to say too much about it because we don’t always agree on everything, so I have my own thoughts,” Leyland said. “All I think Justin Verlander needs to do is use his stuff and pitch with that arrogance that’s made him the great pitcher that he is.”
Verlander said after his last start that the struggles of this season make it feel like 2008 – his worst year statistically. Upon hearing that remark, though, Leyland stuck even more firmly to his views that Verlander will be fine even without making all the adjustments with which he has been experimenting.
“Sometimes you just overthink the process,” Leyland said. “In my opinion, he just needs to get it back to simplicity, and I think that would be the best tonic. That’s just my opinion. I’m not saying I’m right. That’s just my opinion. He’s a great pitcher with great stuff, and that’s all he has to do – in my opinion. No matter how you ever count it or figure it out or whatever, you can sit there ‘til the cows come home, but two and two is four. It ain’t ever going to change. That’s the way it is.”