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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: JUSTIN VERLANDER SP DETROIT TIGERS

                                                         Justin Verlander

With drafts right around the corner, it is time to once again identify potential fantasy baseball busts for you to avoid.  Today we move right towards the top of the starting pitching fraternity and take a closer look at Detroit Tigers ace SP Justin Verlander who currently is recovering from surgery to repair an abdominal injury suffered during a workout in December.  The initial recovery time for the surgery is six weeks which would already put Verlander behind the other pitchers in camp by around 2 weeks.  Even beyond the injury, there are some very disturbing signs regarding Verlander's pitching and ability to remain at an ace level.

First let's look at the numbers Verlander put up in a 2013 season that was a bit of a step down from his first overall status among starting pitchers. 

13-12 3.46 ERA 1.31 WHIP 217 K's in 218.1 IP

Now let's compare the above numbers to his 2012 MVP-like season in 2012.

17-8 2.64 ERA 1.06 WHIP 239 K's in 238.1 IP

Right on the surface it is easy to see that there was some noticeable slippage in Verlander's numbers from 2012 to 2013.  Verlander battled control problems for the first time in years which took him five months to figure out.  That resulted in the major spike in WHIP to a very ugly 1.31.  In addition, the extra base runners and a rise in Verlander's K rate led to the ERA shooting up to a still very good but not for him 3.46.  However despite those ugly trends, Verlander still missed plenty of bats as his K rate never waned one bit as he punched out a batter per inning. 

As far as looking under the hood at the always important advanced stats.  What other reason for the rise in Verlander's hit rate was a 43-point rise in his BABIP.  That number will surely normalize this season and when it does the ERA and WHIP will go down with it. 

So on the surface it would look like Verlander is actually a good bet to rebound based on the advanced metrics and his history as a pure ace.  However now we will get to the red flags which are stark.  Right on the surface, the fact Verlander is coming back from the abdominal surgery is already a big deal.  The fact Verlander won't be able to take part in any sort activity for six weeks is a huge issue that shouldn't be overlooked.  Most pitchers are already well into their offseason conditioning programs and have begun some throwing as spring training nears.  Verlander won't have the ability to do any prep until two weeks INTO camp which is a big negative.  Keep in mind New York Yankees ace C.C. Sabbathia missed almost the entire winter of activities and preparation due to recovering form offseason surgery and we all saw how that turned out.  Sabbathia has one of the worst seasons of any pitcher in the game in 2013 form start to finish after going into camp as a universally respected fantasy baseball ace.  And than there is the workload issue that is also a huge concern.  Verlander has had a CRAZY workload the last 8 seasons which include some deep playoff runs.  I have annually made the point each spring about how it is only a matter of time before Verlander's body will start go succumb to the wear and tear of throwing so many innings.  We can once again look at Sabbathia as the perfect example of this.  Sabbathia was right behind Verlander in 200-plus nutty workload seasons and his body looked like it finally gave out last season under that awful ERA.  When you combine all those innings and the fact Verlander is already coming back from surgery, than one could quickly see why he represents such a risk.

When you look at the whole picture with Justin Verlander, the bad outweighs the good when you are deciding on making an investment.  That doesn't even incorporate the fact that picking a pitcher in the first three rounds of a draft is a horrible idea which is what it will take to land Verlander in the first place.  Steer clear and invest in a more stable commodity.

2014 PROJECTION:  15-8 3.08 ERA 209 K 1.27 WHIP

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