At the end of May you dealt with a ton of buy low offers, which you rejected. Now another poor month has been logged and panic starts to set in. What is wrong with Justin Verlander? Do you keep him or finally trade him away? The answer is obvious. HOLD!
Many commentators have pointed out that his velocity is down this year, which is true. His fastball, curveball, and changeup are all down a tick. The good news? His slider is up 1 MPH according to PITCHf/x. To me that shows he's not hiding an injury or messing with his arm slot. It's just random variation and the flames will eventually return. In fact he hit 98/99 a few times on Saturday against the Rays.
But what about his control? His BB/9 sits at 3.34, the worst mark he's posted since 2008. Thankfully there are a couple of metrics that correlate strongly with expected BB%. F-Strike% and Zone%.
Verlander is throwing the first pitch for a strike 63.7% of the time. It's the best rate of his career and he usually sits in the low 60's, so nothing is out of the ordinary here. Taking a look at the next 4 closest pitchers to Verlander in F-Strike% (Felix, Cain, Hefner, Sale) all of them have a sub 2.60 BB/9. Using the Zone% that PITCHf/x offers, Verlander is finding the strike zone 50.6% of the time. It's down a smidge from his marks of 51.9% and 51% the previous 2 seasons, but it's still a very strong rate and likely just a part of natural fluctuations. Again taking a look at his 4 closest neighbors in Zone% (Sabathia, Leake, Ervin Santana, Cain) they all have a sub 2.50 BB/9. Verlander put up a 2.27 BB/9 last season and a 2.04 BB/9 in 2011. All of the indicators suggest the command he's displaying will lead to fewer free passes.
Other than that everything else checks out. Nothing crazy in his batted ball data. He's actually inducing more grounders/less fly balls this year. That's a good thing. His BABIP sits at .344, the third highest mark in the majors, so he's been unlucky. Since 5/11 (the first sign of struggles) he's only faced 2 below average offenses in his last 10 starts. His schedule becomes a lot friendlier the rest of the way. Good things come to those who wait. You will be happy you waited on Verlander.
Time for SFL Strategy for tonight's slate of games. I did this previously on 6/28 to poor results. I feel pretty good about these picks though.
C- Miguel Montero ($4,998). Starting to heat up, June was far and away his best month of the season. Montero has a good track record against righties and for what it's worth he's 1-3 with a HR against Marcum.
1B- Adam LaRoche ($6,445). LaRoche is swinging a hot stick, raising his AVG .21 points over the last 2 weeks. He faces off against RHP Yovani Gallardo, owning a 1.074 OPS in 24 AB against him.
2B- Ben Zobrist ($6,442). Facing a mediocre starter? Check. Good history against lefties? Check. Short porch in left field? Check.
3B- Pablo Sandoval ($6,339). Panda has been cold since coming off the DL. He's bound to bust out of this slump at some point. Playing in a bandbox in Cincinnati against Arroyo is a good time to start.
SS- Didi Gregorius ($5,538). He's coming off a miserable June but still holds an .885 OPS against RHP. Hoping to strike gold in a value pick.
OF- Hunter Pence ($7,889). 1.080 OPS in 35 AB against Arroyo. Slugging over .500 in 37career games at Great American Ballpark.
OF- Desmond Jennings ($6,448). See Ben Zobrist.
OF- Wil Myers ($5,388). See above. You can see a trend here. Sometimes it pays off to gamble on a few hitters close to each other in the lineup. There's a domino effect in scoring and you can accumulate a lot of points this way.
U- Giancarlo Stanton ($8,235). Jason Marquis has given up 16 HR this year, Stanton hits bombs for a living. He's worth the price tag.
SP- Jordan Zimmerman ($16,799). One of the frontrunners to win the NL CY. Pitching at home against the Brewers, a below average offense. Even worse with Braun on the DL.
SP- Matt Moore ($10,191). No team strikes out more than the Astros and Moore racks up a healthy amount of K's himself.
RP- J.J. Putz ($1,400). The cheapest closer available gives you some wiggle room to build elsewhere. Likely to get some work regardless of a save opportunity.
P- Jose Fernandez ($13,278). The Padres are still without Gyorko and Cabrera. The talented rookie matches up well against the watered down offense.