Verlander continues to struggle in loss to White Sox
JUN 11, 2014 11:42p ET
When Justin Verlander struggled last season, people were concerned.
Now there's a legitimate panic among Tigers fans when it comes to the man who is supposed to be the ace.
Last year on June 12, Verlander was 8-4 with a 3.41 ERA.
After a disastrous 8-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox Wednesday night in Chicago, Verlander is now 6-6 with a 4.61 ERA.
All seven of Verlander's earned runs came in the sixth inning, when Verlander had two of his four walks.
It's the fourth time this season that Verlander has walked four.
"Really, I felt good," Verlander told FOX Sports Detroit's Mickey York on the post-game show. "It was just the walks. I need to limit the walks. That one huge inning, I walked a few guys and gave up a couple weak hits and turned it into a big inning myself when it shouldn't have been.
"I start trying to go a little harder and I end up losing control a little bit and that's what allowed those guys to have that extended inning."
In five of his last six starts, Verlander has given up five earned runs or more.
In his MVP season in 2011, Verlander had just two starts out of 34 in which he gave up five earned runs or more and he never gave up seven in an outing as he did Wednesday.
In 2011, Verlander had just two starts in which he walked four and he never walked more than that.
FOX Sports Detroit studio analyst and former Verlander teammate Craig Monroe put it succinctly on the post-game show.
"The guys are not intimidated by what Justin Verlander brings to the table now," Monroe said. "These guys are grinding out their at-bats, getting his pitch count up and waiting for him to make a mistake and when he makes a mistake, they're making him pay."
Despite giving up five runs in his start against Toronto last week, Verlander felt like he was on the right track because his velocity had increased.
"Stop tinkering, I'm where I need to be," Verlander said. "I know I sound like I repeating record, saying I'm knocking on the door, I'm right there. But I know I am. I look at the swings guys are taking and the hits that they had. They're not squaring up a lot of stuff, it's just I'm putting them in situations to be able to have success with the walks. I will get better at that."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus agreed that Verlander's stuff is where it needs to be but also agreed the results have to be better.
"There's nothing in particular that concerns me with Justin that I could tell you but we gotta find a way to fix him," Ausmus told York.
Verlander has always gotten his power from his lower-body strength, particularly his legs.
To that end, he devotes the majority of the off-season to building up his lower body to withstand the rigors of a long season and hopefully a long playoff run.
Verlander injured himself during those workouts and had to undergo core muscle surgery on Jan. 9.
It's fair to wonder whether not being able to work out at his usual strenuous level has affected the strength in his lower body and therefore his usual velocity, and perhaps in trying to reach his typical velocity, his mechanics have suffered.
Verlander has not had one start this season in which he has thrown fewer than 105 pitches.
Because of the surgery and not being able to build up his lower body, Verlander should probably be on a shorter leash.
If he has easy innings, it would be fine to let him get up over 110 pitches.
But Verlander threw 122 Wednesday night, too many of which did not find the strike zone.
It's time to stop expecting him to be the 2011 Verlander and figure out how to make the 2014 Verlander more effective.