Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Justin Verlander is 5-2 with a 3.15 ERA, but I'm starting to think it might be easier to hit the Detroit Tigers starter than it is to trade him in fantasy.
Maybe that's the problem. Even though his numbers are solid, the right-hander is not as tough on batters as he used to be.
That's the reason I'm trying to trade him in the first place, but I didn't think it would be this hard to find a partner.
Obviously, I could move him if I was content with getting something well below market value, but his stats are good enough and his name still carries enough weight that I shouldn't have to do that.
As it stands now, I may be faced with holding him and hoping he looks like the Verlander of old soon.
After watching his first nine starts this season and looking at the numbers, I'm not optimistic that will happen.
The 31-year-old is generating chases on just 27.9 percent of pitches outside the zone, his lowest since 2008.
Verlander's four-seam fastball velocity has declined to 93.1 mph, down from 94 mph in 2012 and 94.7 the year before that. As a a result, he's only used the pitch 35.3 percent of the time in 2014.
For the second straight season, Verlander's walk rate is up significantly. It was 6.3 percent in 2012, 8.1 percent a year ago and is 9.4 percent this season. He's issued 3.60 free passes per nine innings.
The bigger concern is that his strikeout rate has plummeted. At least last year he maintained a K rate of 23.5 percent and a K/9 of 8.95. This season, he's down to 18.4 percent and his 7.05 K/9 is his lowest since his rookie year in 2006.
In the 1,611 plate appearances Verlander had two strikes on a batter from 2011-13, he picked up a strikeout 706 times, or 43.8 percent. In 2014, he's induced a strikeout in just 35.6 percent of his two-strike counts.
There are still some positives to take away, however.
While batters are putting more balls into play against him, they aren't hitting it hard.
Verlander's line-drive rate this season is just 16 percent, a career low, and his ground-ball rate is 43.6 percent. And with a fly-ball rate of 40.3 percent, he's allowed a homer on just 2.7 percent of his fly balls and generated an infield pop-up on 15.1 percent of them.
With that type of batted-ball breakdown, he deserves a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) better than the .295 one he currently has.
While Verlander's velocity is down, he still has the 17th-best average in the majors among qualified starters.
We also may be able to pin all of the right-hander's issues this season on the same release-point problem he dealt with last season.
He got that sorted out in September and ended up allowing just one run while striking out 53 batters in his final 35 innings, playoffs included, while seeing an increase in average velocity, which is why I was so much higher on him than the public coming into the season.
Looking at his charts on BrooksBaseball.com, his average horizontal release point is nearly the same as it was last year.
There's always a chance that he gets his mechanics back on track and returns to the pitcher he was in 2011, 2012 and late 2013.
Fantasy owners can't rely on that chance, however. We have to go forward as if this is the Verlander we're going to see from now on. Which is why if someone wants to pay anywhere close to the peak sticker price on the 31-year-old, you must go for it.
Hopefully you'll have better luck that I've had trying to trade him.
If not, he'll still be a reliable No. 3-4 fantasy starter (in 12-team leagues) at the very least.
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