Justin Verlander hates hits so much.


illustration by Samara Pearlstein. I know this no-hitter came against the Blue Jays, not the Royals. The TC is from a previous thing, ok. Deal.

Remember when Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter?

Yeah. That happened again.

I fully expected to not see this game, but a series of work-related shenanigans involving people in two states and mostly hinging upon the location of a portable tent conspired to send me home early. As with any Verlander start these days, I thought I would see a bunch of strikeouts, a ton of pitches thrown early, and a generally good pitching performance with flashes of stupidly overpowering brilliance, probably not supported by the bats. You know, the usual.

On the whole I was still glad that I was going to be able to watch it, because, hey, a Verlander start is usually going to be better baseball-viewin’ than a Phil Coke start, if you know what I mean, and I suspect that you do, even the rabid Phil Cokeanistas among you.

I got in around the third or fourth inning. I remember hearing that Verlander had seen 9 batters and sent 9 batters right back to their bench, and thinking that this sounded oddly efficient for him. It was: he needed only 108 pitches to blast through this entire game. Compare that to his last outing, where he needed 127 pitches just to get through 6 and I became fractious as a result. I’m just saying.

As in his previous no-hitter, he was hitting triple digits all over the place even in the 8th and 9th innings, and making it look effortless (as effortless as the highly unnatural and arm-stressing motion of any major league pitch can look, anyways). This is because Justin Verlander is a beast who consumes the sweet terror of opposing batters and excretes pure fastballs.

Oddly, he did not actually strike out many Jays (4 over 9 innings), but since this relative lack of Ks certainly contributed to his efficient use of pitches, I am pleased. It also probably makes the defense feel good about its collective self and that can only be a positive thing.

It would have been a PERFECT GAME if not for JP Arencibia and an intense 12 pitch at-bat that resulted in an eventual walk, the only baserunner of the game for Toronto. Perfection and cleanliness of the bases marred by the offensiveness of persistent bluebirds. Bah, tarnation, etc. After the game Verlander kept saying how it was an impressive at-bat, ‘especially from a young guy like him’, as though Arencibia is not a mere three years younger than Verlander.

I know that it’s Good Baseball and all that, but DAMMIT, Arencibia! Couldn’t you just flail a LITTLE? The Tigers were already cruelly deprived of one recent perfect game, why make us suffer through it again? Have you no sympathy for human and tiger suffering? Have you no HEART?? At least this time it was legitimate, and there is the no-hitter to give us and Verlander warm comforting metaphorical hugs.

Speaking of HUGS, the one that Verlander got immediately following the last out, from Alex Avila, was a beautiful thing to behold.

He also got a tub of ice water dumped over his head in his postgame on-field interview, all college-football-style. I couldn’t see who did it, but they got him quite squarely. Trevor Thompson, who had been holding the mic, took a fair hit himself and had to glisten his way through the rest of the interview.

Justin Verlander has thrown two no-hitters. One of them was a single battle-walk away from being a perfect game. Meditate upon that. Let that marinate in your brain for maximum deliciousness.

I should have downtime at work tomorrow for drawing, so expect some sort of large overwrought Verlander-celebratory illustration here in the near future.

27 responses to “Justin Verlander hates hits so much.

  1. Great post as always! Just thought I’d let you know that it was Papa Grande who gave JV the bath. I slowed the Tivo down, and saw his impish mug in the background. Today’s game was really a thing of beauty.

  2. Today was a good day.

  3. ivantopumpyouup

    It was Valverde who got Justin with the tub of ice water!

    And rabid Cokeanistas? You say this like there’s more than just me. ;)

  4. Justin Verlander is a marvel.

  5. I went to the sports page of the free press and saw some stupid mitch albom article and decided….RotT will have better coverage of jv’s no-no. Good work! oh, the cartoons are AAAHHHH-mazing.

  6. baseballoogie

    A friend of mine in Toronto was actually at this game. Funnily enough, her account of the game is somewhat different than the above, but the good news is that she has ceased communicating solely in muttered obscenities now.

  7. This game was magnificent.

    I am old enough to remember the 1984 Tigers team, and I think that was when I fell in love with baseball forever, enough to bring me back to it after the strike, even, although it took many many years – and my favorite pitcher at the time was Jack Morris.

    If his comments about Verlander getting fewer strikeouts and thus being able to work deeper into games had even an iota of a smidgeon of influence on Justin Verlander trying to be more efficient, I am a happy Tiger fan.

    Strikeouts are lovely things, but I much prefer efficient pitching.

    (And I am so not surprised it was Valverde. After all, he had plenty of time sitting around in the bullpen getting bored to formulate such a plan. :)

    • ivantopumpyouup

      Personally, I find the “less strikeouts equal lower pitch count” stance kind of odd. The full counts/fouled off pitches/walks are what hurt pitch counts more than strikeouts, imo. Max Scherzer’s 14 K/four walk game last season is a good example of this. /ramble

      • Quick strikeouts I like, but I don’t like the way that with so many pitchers there seems to be a tendency almost to go for the K looking, so they pick at the corners, the batters don’t swing, the pitch is called a ball, and the at bat is extended when if they didn’t try to pitch so finely they might have gotten an easy pop-up out earlier.

        It isn’t strikeouts per se so much as the intention to get a strikeout when it isn’t needed (such as a bases loaded situation where it is important to prevent the runners from advancing). If the strikeouts come naturally as a result of pitching well, and there aren’t a lot of balls in the performance, it is different than specifically trying for a strikeout even if the batter holds off on three pitches just off the plate that the pitcher was trying to get him to swing at. I hate the nibbling at the strike zone more than anything, and that seems to happen when some pitchers are trying for strikeouts more than just an out of any type by throwing strikes.

        • ivantopumpyouup

          Verlander doesn’t strike me as a nibbler though. Galarraga? Definitely. Porcello, at times? Yeah. I’m sure Verlander’s done it at times, but nibbling at the zone isn’t something that stands out in my mind about his performances.

          I have nothing against the idea of not going for strikeouts when it isn’t needed, but it’s the idea that strikeouts are detrimental that bugs the everloving balls out of me. The Twins are telling Liriano to focus on pitching to contact over getting strikeouts. Why? If he can do it and he’s been successful doing it why would you take that tool out of his arsenal? Liriano’s strikeout rate dropped from 9.44 a game to 5.51 (his walk rate ballooned and he’s also giving up a ton of homeruns per fly ball ftr) and he’s getting hammered. Maybe it’s all somehow unrelated but I wouldn’t be surprised if Liriano’s struggles are connected to the Twins’ de-emphasis on strikeouts.

          But I digress . . .

          • I think it’s the difference between telling someone “don’t worry about getting strikeouts” and “focus on NOT getting strikeouts.” Verlander figures, I’m guessing, that if he makes a good pitch that does what he wants it to, the guy may swing and miss, which is great, but if he swings and hits it, the defense can take care of it. He isn’t focused on either avoiding bat contact or making it, but making the ball do what he wants it to do and the batter will get himself out somehow. Sometimes he will have games with 12 strikeouts and sometimes he will only have 4, but he doesn’t focus on the number of Ks to decide how well he pitched.

            What the Twins seem to have told Liriano, judging by results, isn’t “don’t focus on getting strikeouts” but “TRY to make contact with the bat” and the only way to do that consistently is to throw more hittable pitches. If he had the attitude of “if the guy swings and misses, great, but if he hits it my defense will handle it and get the out instead” then he might be doing better. Instead of not worrying about the strikeouts and letting them happen naturally in the flow of the game, he seems to be worrying about them – but worrying about getting too many instead of worrying about not getting enough.

            It is stupid, though. Falls under “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

            • ivantopumpyouup

              //It is stupid, though. Falls under “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”//

              I think they might’ve broken him. :P No-hitter notwithstanding.

      • Wait. Max’s 14 K game was one where he threw 113 pitches in 5.2 innings. Seems like that’s a perfect example of more strikeouts causing an inflated pitch count early in the game…

        • ivantopumpyouup

          He walked a ton of guys and went to a lot of three ball counts early on in the game.

            • ivantopumpyouup

              Four walks in 5 IP is a lot, imo.

            • Ya, but 14 Ks in 5ish innings is a lot more!

              I actually looked at the numbahz– he would have had to give up 10 or 11 walks for them to have the same impact on his pitch count as the Ks did. He spent 28 pitches on walks in that game (29 if you count his one-pitch HBP) and 73 pitches on strikeouts. His average pitch count for a walk was higher than his average pc for a K, but he still spent way more pitches strikin the hell outta dudes.

              Everything else (all the at-bats that didn’t result in a K or a BB) took a total of 12 pitches. Combined. Two of them were one-pitch at-bats (those were both Kevin Kouzmanoff, because lol).

  8. Also, this game capped a couple of delightful live minor-league excellent pitching performances in the last few days for me, so I have gorged myself on wonderful pitching lately and will probably be smiling through the afterglow all day. I love baseball so much (sometimes, anyway). <3

  9. Baroque, I remember Jack of the 80’s as well, and find his comments ironic. Not a stat guy, but my memories of him were lots of early inning gopher balls and base runners before he found his groove. Kind of a rich man’s Bondo. Sparky may have been Captain Hook, but by current standards, his patience was bovine. That said Verlander is rough to watch sometimes, even against Cleveland (Columbus resident here).

    • What I remember most about Morris was his tenacious nature. He wanted to complete every game he started, and I took his comments with that viewpoint in mind. If he had Verlander’s stuff he would never have consented to leave a game because he would have figured out a way to put in nine innings every single time and be there for the win at the end. In retrospect, his feelings about the bullpen were almost pathological. :)

  10. I am currently working in FL. The manager of the restaurant next to my office is a Tigers fan as well. During my break I looked at the score and saw that JV was (at this point) throwing a perfect game. I rushed next door and we sat for 15 mins trying to find the game on the tv. Push came to shove and I had to go back to work. No more than 5 mins later the manager came rushing over, pounded on the window and told me the good news. The people I was helping were quite confused.

    This is how I heard of his great feat of pitching.

  11. My power went out Saturday afternoon! Whyyyy???

    Of course I was forced to stay up until 2 a.m. watching the replay after the power was restored. There are Tigers games I wish my TV would stop working for. BUT THIS WAS NOT ONE OF THEM!!!

  12. I actually looked into the high pitch/strikeout thing last season and outings where JV walks a lot of batters correlate with high pitch counts much more than high strikeout totals. The problem with “not worrying about strikeouts” is there will be days where the hits fall. So instead of striking out a batter in five or six pitches for the third out, he might give up a single in three pitches and then a ground out in four more.

    You might recall that in Verlander’s terrible (for him) 2008 season, he was trying to keep his pitch counts down and would end up not getting strikeouts AND throwing 110 pitches before the sixth inning was over.

    • If you look at Verlander’s Crazy High Pitch Count Days from 2010 (120+ pitch outings)… there are 11 of ’em. In all but one of those, he had more Ks than walks. In fact, in those games he had 86 Ks and only 19 walks. I don’t think the Ks were the sole driving force behind those Crazy High Pitch Counts– he also went 6+ innings in 9 out of the 11, which of course would’ve helped drive the total up– but in the games where his pitch counts were Crazy High, he was issuing waaaay more Ks than walks.

      He never gave up more than 5 walks in any single outing last season, and he only did that twice, in 116 and 114 pitch outings, which was like middle of the road for him last year– his average pitch count for 2010 was 113.5 pitches. (I don’t even wanna think about how this ranks compared to the rest of the league.)

      I feel like walks and high pitch counts might go hand in hand for, like, everyone else in the league, but Justin Verlander is clearly a cat of a different color.

      I mean, he usually doesn’t walk all that many guys anyways, and he still throws more pitches than anyone. I guess if this doesn’t tire him out and it doesn’t knock him out of games too early it’s not necessarily a bad thing (and it didn’t seem to tire him out last year– his last 5 starts were all 120+ pitch outings and he lasted 7 or more innings in each)… but it’s definitely A Thing.

  13. I think part of Verlander’s high pitch count is they hit a lot of foul balls against him (although I have no stats to back that up) .

    I also think it’s hard to not strike guys out when you have great stuff. The idea is to either get a strikeout or pitch it so they won’t hit the ball hard anywhere. If he decides to not go for strikeouts and pitch it so they don’t hit it hard somewhere they still might swing and miss. So, he gets a strikeout anyway.

  14. Pingback: Nightly Newsstand: May 9, 2011 « Paul's Random Baseball Stuff

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