Watching Justin Verlander struggle on the mound last year was a painful thing. We all knew he had the talent. He just couldn’t seem to find it.
The last five starts for Verlander have been nothing short of magnificent. In fact, he’s never looked better. He’s not just blowing guys away with his fastball, either. All of his pitches are working. In his last five starts, Verlander has only given up four runs and has 52 strike outs. In essence, he’s been unhitable.
To me, the biggest change in Verlander seems to be his attitude and intensity. Last year, I used to gasp at his nonchalant reaction when manager Jim Leyland would visit him on the mound to take him out of the game. Verlander had a look on his face like he just didn’t care. There was no fire in his eyes. He looked like a little kid who was happy to be getting out of a responsibility he never really wanted.
But in his last five starts, Verlander looks like a whole new person. He’s got an anger in his eyes and a fire in his belly. In Minnesota when Leyland took him out with a 5 run lead (which the bullpen blew) Verlander looked like he was ready to kill somebody. That’s exactly how an ace starter should react.
George Kell once said that his fellow Tiger Hal Newhouser told him, “You’ve got to be mean to pitch.” I couldn’t agree more. A great deal of pitching is based on toughness and mental edge. Right now, Verlander has got it. Prince Hal would be proud.
We all know that if Verlander can keep this up for the rest of the season, the Tigers have a legitimate chance of making a serious run in the post season. Right now, everything is clicking for the Tigers. And Justin Verlander is a major reason why.