Astros: Let’s appreciate Justin Verlander
The Astros have one of the top, if not the best, starting rotation in baseball thus far in 2018.
Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton. It was this order that the Astros set their starting rotation as the season started.
Talk about a rotation.
Sorry if I got distracted by this group of starting pitchers. Seriously, the talent listed there by human names is something else.
Alright, I am good to go now.
Today, I want to concentrate on the first name listed in this post, the one that goes by the last name of Verlander. In case you haven’t heard, he may very well be the best starting pitcher in baseball up to this point in the season.
First, some numbers to back up this claim.
Verlander ranks highly, or at the top, of numerous categories that provide a snapshot into his early season success. For example, he has the best ERA in baseball by all qualified starting pitchers at 1.05. That is nearly a half-run better than Carlos Martinez, who has the second-best ERA in baseball at 1.62. And if you are into Wins Above Replacement, otherwise known as WAR, well, Verlander is tied for the highest WAR in baseball at 2.7 per FanGraphs. The starter who is tied with him in this category? A teammate that goes by the last name of Cole.
Holy moly, this Astros’ rotation!
Sorry, I am back again.
You see, Verlander does have some numbers to back up this claim. Of course, ERA and WAR are not the only metrics one could use to make a sound judgement. Verlander’s 2.20 FIP currently ranks in the top four. And as we all know, pitchers are judged quite a bit on strikeouts and walks. If you have a pitcher that strikes out a ton of batters while walking few, then you probably have a quality pitcher on the staff. Again, Verlander demonstrates how good he has been in this regard as his current strikeout rate minus walk rate is 27.3%. However, he is only ranked fifth in this regard. And Cole is second in both categories. Well, I may should write about him, but I will leave that for another day.
Another key aspect to Verlander’s success has been his ability to limit home runs and a remarkably low BABIP.
Thus far in 2018, Verlander has posted a 4.6% home run-to-fly ball rate. If the season ended today, this mark would easily be the best in his career. His previous career-best was 5.6% in 2010. And his current BABIP of .205 is well below his career-average of .284. While the drop in home runs may be a byproduct of changes made by Verlander, the low BABIP is must likely not sustainable. I wouldn’t expect these present trends to continue without digging into more data. Food for thought, though!
Next: Astros: Three Players Trending Up as the Astros start rolling
At the same time, Verlander has revamped his arsenal to various degrees since arriving in Houston, so maybe the good times will continue to roll? I would hope so. Wouldn’t that be a story?!
**Statistics and information courtesy of FanGraphs**