If the Astros face the Indians in the playoffs, would Justin Verlander help them out?
The Astros acquired the top starter available during the August waivers trading period. They got the former Cy Young and MVP Award winner Justin Verlander. At the beginning of the season, Verlander looked human after finishing second in the Cy Young race in 2016.
Depending on how the rotation shapes up, Verlander looks to make five starts in September with the Stros. As Jake Kaplan reported, he will make his first start on Tuesday versus the Mariners on the road. It’s a late game, but you know that fans will be tuning in to see Verlander make his first start not wearing a Tigers uniform.
The Indians and Red Sox are trying to catch the Astros for the best record in the AL. That crown holds the key to home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. They are unlikely to catch the Dodgers for the best record in the MLB to determine home-field for the World Series.
An upgrade at the top of the rotation.
Why add Verlander when they already have too many starters in the rotation when Lance McCullers returns Sunday? They wanted to upgrade the rotation for the playoffs with the flame-throwing Verlander. With Verlander in the fold, the Astros have a great top three of Dallas Keuchel, Verlander and McCullers.
If the Astros get enough of a lead in the final few games, they can save these guys for the playoffs. Things may change if the other teams are close to overtaking the Astros for AL supremacy.
Verlander has done something that no other Houston starter can say. He has pitched in the World Series. In 16 career postseason starts, he has a 7-5 record with a 3.39 ERA. He has struck out 112 hitters in 98 1/3 innings.
Verlander did give up six runs in his 2006 Game 1 start and five in his 2012 Game 1 start in the World Series. If there is anything to worry about is how can he perform in the playoffs.
Struggles versus the Indians.
After the trade for Verlander, I saw on Twitter where Indians fans were laughing at the trade. In their expert opinions, Verlander sucks versus the Indians. Being in the same division with the Indians for his entire career may have led to more familiarity.
Looking at his career stats, Verlander is 20-24 versus the Indians with a 4.71 ERA in 52 starts. That is compared to his 3.49 career ERA. Like 2016 for the Astros versus the Rangers, the domination is extreme for the Indians over Verlander. In 2017, he is 1-3 with an 8.14 ERA.
In Verlander’s third start of the year, the Indians crushed him for nine runs in four innings. He also got hammered in his 17th start, allowing seven runs in only 3 1/3 innings. Verlander was struggling early in the season with his slider. He said he has made the adjustments to be successful.
The current version of Verlander is much better. In his past nine games, Verlander is 5-4 with a 2.32 ERA while striking out 73 batters in 62 innings. Whether Verlander struggles in the playoffs versus the Indians doesn’t diminish how big this trade was.
After the devastation that was Hurricane Harvey, trading for Verlander was a big moment for Houstonians. While many people have lost all that they owned, at least there is a better chance than before the trade to win the World Series. Baseball is back in Houston after the floods.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***