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Justin Verlander Is Human

Justin Verlander has a ritual — he eats Taco Bell the night before every start. But no; this has nothing to do with it either.

Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander

June 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) walks in from the bullpen before the game against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not a mechanics issue. It’s not a matter of velocity or ‘stuff.’ It’s nothing to do with his supposed relations with Kate Upton. She’s long gone. Besides, I’m not sure she could deter me from earning millions of dollars, either.

Justin Verlander has a ritual —  he eats Taco Bell the night before every start.  But no; this has nothing to do with it either.

Here’s the problem. Justin Verlander is a human. He is bipedal. He walks upright and relies on water, nurtients and vitamins  for sustenance. He cannot leap tall buildings with a single bound. He cannot win 24 games every season.

But fans will suckle to the teat of remembrance. They will cling to his 24 wins in 2011, and the 17 wins in 2012. They will remember his performance of 2009, when he went 19-9, when the Tigers lost the AL Central in a one-game playoff to the Twins.

Since arriving in 2006, not much else has dominated the pitching discussions in Detroit, and this year Verlander has relighted the talks, but for the wrong  reasons.

This year, Verlander has a respectable 8-5 win-loss record, but a pedestrian 3.72 ERA, and 1,35 WHIP. Things aren’t clicking like they did the past two years, and everyone knows about it. Everyone should know about it because he just signed a potential $202MM extension and has failed to compare to his recent, brilliant self.

There’s something else about Verlander: he doesn’t seem to mind all of the attention.

He doesn’t like being visited on the mound. He talks about his desires. He holds nothing back.

Justin Verlander

June 18, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not a matter of pitching, for Verlander. Something else has got him. It’s not the fact that Kate Upton doesn’t like him anymore. If I were Justin, it would make me happy that she wanted nothing to do with me.

Maybe it’s his age. Perhaps Verlander is growing up, and losing some of his former spunk. Say, he’s becoming old and soft. That can’t be right either. He’s only 30.

His fastball maximum velocity is down only a tiny bit from last year. 101.5 MPH in 2012, and this year, 99.1 MPH.

So what? The curve looks good. The slider looks good. The fastballs look good. He hasn’t winced or grimaced, showing a potential injury. He hasn’t lashed out against the media. He’s just pitching every fifth game, decently, sometimes not, and sometimes above average. He’s had one or two special games, this year.

In the meantime, there is Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and occasionally Rick Porcello

The problem is this: the money is where the mouth is. Verlander is quietly underachieving.

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