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Justin Verlander has a 4.00 ERA and $167 million coming his way

Jul 25, 2013, 7:22 PM EDT

Justin Verlander AP

Even though the Tigers still had Justin Verlander signed for two more years, they signed their right-hander to a huge contract this spring that essentially made him the highest-paid pitcher ever. He’ll receive $28 million per year every year from 2015-2019.

That’s kind of a scary thought right now, isn’t it? Verlander gave up seven more runs Thursday in a loss to the White Sox. He fell to 10-8 with a 3.99 ERA for the season. Six times this year he’s allowed at least five earned runs in an outing. Only Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Jeremy Guthrie, with seven such outings, have done so more frequently.

That’s certainly not to say Verlander has been all bad. He has eight outings in which he’s allowed one or no earned runs, including two this month. His ERA ranks just 24th in the AL, but he is sixth in strikeouts and seventh in innings pitched. He’s hardly been a liability.

What is worrying is that Verlander’s average fastball has tumbled to 92.7 mph this year, according to Fangraphs’ Baseball Info Solutions data. He came in at 94.3 mph in 2012, and he was in the 95-96 mph range each of the three years before that.

Verlander isn’t falling apart, but it seems pretty likely that his peak has already come and gone. Before his Cy Young season in 2011, his career best ERA in six seasons was 3.37 and WHIP was 1.16. The mid-3.00 ERAs seem like the better bet for the future than the mid-2.00s of 2011 and ’12. And that’s probably the optimistic scenario for the Tigers, considering that he was baseball’s hardest working pitcher from 2009-2102.

The Tigers still had Verlander under control for two more years when they extended him this spring. Technically, it was announced as a brand new seven-year, $180 million contract, but in reality, it was a five-year, $140 million extension for 2015-19. At that rate, the deal had very little upside. Verlander needs to remain one of baseball’s best pitchers to justify that kind of salary, and that’s an awful lot to ask. There aren’t many pitchers in history who can claim to have had an eight- or 10-year run as one of baseball’s best.

If not for the extension, the Tigers would currently owe Verlander $27 million through the end of 2014. That sounds a whole lot better to me than $167 million through 2019.

  1. kcroyal - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    They could have saved the city of Detroit with that kind of cash.

    • tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:13 PM

      Verlander has more long-term potential.

  2. gigab0t - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    Headline: “Justin Verlander has a 4.00 ERA”

    Article: “He fell to…a 3.99 ERA for the season.”

    I mean ok, not the biggest difference, but come on. 3.99 is still technically sub-4.

    Full disclosure: Tigers fan

    • tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      Weird.

      Usually “I’m a Yankee fan” is the boilerplate excuse for being a douche.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:28 PM

        Hey!

      • tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:49 PM

        Hey….how you doin?

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:00 PM

        Did you get a new job? I never see you on at night anymore. I can’t toss you names then.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:41 PM

        Work has actually been….fluid I guess because the hours change on the fly….

        I had an early day and some time to post while at work too so I posted quite a bit today….

        In fact, on the thread about A-Rod being a slumlord I replied to a post about The Super with Joe Pesci and immediately thought “Shit…now I gotta start working on Bacon/Pesci”….but you didn’t chime in and I was like “Good, I’m not going to get fired for spending too much time on this”

        (The answer, BTW, is Pesci in Raging Bull or Goodfellas with DeNiro who was in Sleepers)

      • tfbuckfutter - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:31 PM

        Hey….guy who thumbs-downed my comment in a personal conversation….you don’t get to have an opinion on my work schedule.

        If you disagreed with that post strongly enough to thumbs it down then you need to re-evaluate how you are utilizing your time.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:53 PM

        How about Thomas Haden Church? Is that a good one?

  3. Kevin Gillman - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    It’s amazing that the Tigers are in first place, ahead of the Indians by only 3 games, and it’s really Max Scherzer that has led the pitching, and not Verlander.

    • proudlycanadian - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:33 PM

      Doom!

      • Kevin Gillman - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:46 PM

        LOL

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:30 PM

        Boooo!

        /throws peanuts

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:40 PM

        How did you know I was allergic to peanuts?

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:41 PM

        Oh, well, then, I’m sorry. I just want to boo you, not put you in a coma.

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:44 PM

        Not likely. The test for peanuts may have been a false positive. Most of my numerous allergies are not food related.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:44 PM

        Tiger fur?

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:46 PM

        Cat dander.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:01 PM

        That’s Craig’s fault then. ;)

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:14 PM

        If you say so

  4. hittfamily - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    Evan Longoria til 2023 for 133 million is looking better and better by the day. He earns slightly more per season than Justin does for 13 games per year.

    • hittfamily - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:39 PM

      BJ Upton makes more per year than Longoria. Oh man, it feels good to be a Rays fan!

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:30 PM

        What makes it feel better, that or having a whole section to yourself when you go to the Trop?

      • yahmule - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:40 PM

        Oh damn.

      • hittfamily - Jul 26, 2013 at 2:43 AM

        Does Comerica accept food stamps now?

  5. jayscarpa - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    Baseball owners are insane.

  6. psunick - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    Makes you appreciate the way the Giants handled Tim Lincecum’s contract situation, doesn’t it?

    • xmatt0926x - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I seem to remember that the Giants wanted to lock him up and it was Lincecum who didn’t want to have a long term deal. Didn’t he go on about not wanting the pressure of living up to a long term deal and he was just fine going year by year?

      • Francisco (FC) - Jul 26, 2013 at 9:28 AM

        Yet another exhibit for the case of Brian Sabean’s “It’s better to be lucky than good” GM tenure.

  7. countduku - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    Me thinks the Tigers are going to live to regret that contract extension.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:34 PM

      Between him and Prince that’s way to much money tied up, it’ll be tough staying competitive when those guys are old and still owed nine figures.

      • dondada10 - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:32 PM

        Prince really hasn’t shown signs of decline though.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:10 PM

        Prince really hasn’t shown signs of decline though.

        2011 to present

        BB% – 15.5, 12.3, 11.6
        K% – 15.3, 12.2, 17.2
        ISO – .267, .215, .187
        wOBA – .410, .398, .356
        wRC+ – 161, 153, 124

        Not a sharp decline from 11 to 12, but this year doesn’t look good. Is he hurt?

    • km9000 - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:42 PM

      “But I hope you leave enough for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your god damn spine!”

  8. buffalo65 - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Verlander is losing it. Off the juice???

    • jcmeyer10 - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      No, simply a regression to the mean. Nothing more, nothing less.

  9. thomas844 - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    I wonder why so many players always seem to skid after signing a big contract? Is it because they feel the pressure of living up to the big contract they got or because they simply don’t feel they need to try as hard once they get their guaranteed money?

    • mkd - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:40 PM

      It’s actually pretty simple: Players hit their peak, put up big numbers, lock up a huge payday on the free agent market and then follow a normal aging curve and see their numbers decline. It’s not pressure or laziness or lack of will that cases it. It’s just the basic aging process coinciding with the beginnig of the large contract. It looks like the two are related but they’re really not.

      • dondada10 - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:35 PM

        Which is why teams try to lock up their guys before free-agency. The Tigers did that with Verlander initially in 2010 when they signed him for 5 years, 80 million. That bought out 2 years of arbitration and 3 years of free-agency.

      • yahmule - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:46 PM

        The so-called SI curse can be explained similarly. Athletes make the cover after some peak performance, so there’s generally no place to go but down.

      • thomas844 - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:55 PM

        That makes perfect sense to me.

    • Bryz - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      I’m willing to bet it’s a combination of what mkd said and selection bias.

  10. bchapman2011 - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:15 PM

    I do not get it……The only reason to ever sign a player this early is to prevent them from hitting the FA market and because you are signing them at a discounted rate. At the very least they should have forced him to pitch this year. The owner does not care because he just wants to win now and it will be somebody else’s problem once he passes away.

  11. jonrox - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    It’s ok in the long run, since Anibal Sanchez seems to be outperforming his contract. Win some lose some.

  12. hushbrother - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    ALL pitchers are unpredictable to some degree. Verlander would seem to be the closest thing to a safe bet in the game. Even if he does mostly have 3.50 ERA years for most of the contract, he could very well mix in a couple of vintage Verlander years.

    • jcmeyer10 - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      So for the rest of the contract he’ll barely earn half his salary and then a couple years of almost earning the salary.

  13. modellforprez - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    everybody gets figured out. All that Film, Scouting, belicheating. Filming a team or single player practicing to use for own insight to beat him/them. dont laugh its like defense if done right it wins championships. TILL YOU ARE FIGURED OUT

    • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:55 PM

      So, from 2006-2012 no one had V figured out? And then when they did, he couldn’t thorw as fast anymore?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:13 PM

        I love the analogy to football, as if Verlander some how has some trick “pitches” he only throws in practice that he might break out in a game. Like he’ll suddenly throw left handed like ambidextrous pitcher, Pat Venditte, or he’ll do that pitch like the Cirque du Soleil guy, or the Korean rhythmic gymnast.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:57 PM

        Shhhh, he hasn’t quite perfected the morph yet.

  14. spkmania - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    Stop with all the doom and gloom. Anyone who watches Verlander pitch knows that average fastball speed doesn’t mean much as his velocity increases during the game. Granted, he may have lost little, but it’s still more velocity than most will ever have. He hit 99 on multiple pitches today. It’s a control issue. Last two years he was painting the outer edges of the plate, this year he seems to be throwing more in the middle of the plate. Hitters slump, pitchers do too.

  15. fusionix7 - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    It’s all about fastball control with Verlander. Right now he doesn’t have it, and that’s why he’s struggling. It didn’t help that Andy Dirks forgot how to catch a ball today.

  16. beelza - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:55 PM

    I think he’s tippin his pitches. Batters are sitting on the fastball. All 0-2 hits, and strikeouts way down, mean to me, he’s got no “out” pitch. But there is more to this story. Going from dominant in 11 and 12 to 5th in this rotation cannot be explained away by just one thing, unless you’re talking about PED use in 11 and 12 and none in 2013-but I don’t think that is likely.

  17. pwshrugged - Jul 26, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    To be completely non-technical, Verlander’s been “off” pretty much since he had a non-QS against the Astros in May, a game in which he – if I’m not mistaken – walked in a bases-loaded run. Outside of a couple really solid outings since then, he just looks…. not quite right. Not in a physical way, either, but like a guy who just lost a tick mentally. Maybe the big payday and the World Series/Cy Young/MVP expectations are getting to him. Hard to say.

    There’s been speculation that he’s tipping pitches, something both he and the Tigers’ pitching coach have mentioned, as well as various “mechanical tweaks” they’ve observed on film. It’s always troubling to see a guy struggle after signing a big contract, but if you expect anyone to rebound, it’s gotta be Verlander. Everyone’s due an off-year from time to time. At least we’ve got 3 guys out-pitching our ace on a weekly basis right now (and on the weeks that Fister blows up the scoreboard, it seems like Porcello pitches a gem).

  18. grumpyoleman - Jul 26, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    I think Kate hurt his back.

  19. rickdobrydney - Jul 26, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    I would love to know what Verlander’s record is since he was humiliated and rocked in last year’s All-Star game — what an albatross of a contract this will turn out to be —-

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