Verlander talks about changes he made to his delivery to help avoid the groin injury, that led to the lat injury and surgery that he went through this spring. The comment that floored this writer was when he talked about changing his release point from 7′-2″ to 6′-5″ off the ground.
This may be called tweaking his mechanics, but in reality, this is a major change in his mechanics. Verlander is 6′-5″ tall. Hold your arm up next to your head and hold it with your hand about 9″ above your head. Now lower it down to even with the top of your head. That is the difference in release points that we are talking about and it is huge.
Imagine you are the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, which you earned by pitching a certain way. You suffer an injury. Most players would come back from that injury and return to what was successful in the previous season. But Justin Verlander spent his off time looking closely at what may have caused the injury. He decided the way he was pitching with that particular release point was unsustainable. He would be setting himself up for more injuries down the road. So, he decided to spend his rehab and COVID downtime revamping his mechanics and his first time out in an intrasquad game against practically the whole starting lineup was terrific, going 3 innings with 0 hits and 5 Ks.
This deep self-analysis by Verlander is nothing new. In reviewing the book “Astroball” back in 2018, his attitude of working on improvement even in the middle of a season was apparent.
“(The Author) zero(es) in on how Justin Verlander was the perfect fit for the team. He had pitched poorly at the beginning of 2017 but used analytics and study to change his grip in the middle of the season to slow down his slider and give it more break. He was a sponge when he came to the Astros using all the analytics they could pour into him to improve himself.”
This is not to say that other players are not into self-improvement, but to watch what Verlander has done at a time in his career when many pitchers are ramping down is amazing. When he came to the Astros he was well on his way to a Hall of Fame Career with 2 no-hitters, the Rookie of the Year award, one Cy Young, one MVP, and six All Star appearances on his resume. The last two years and a month with the Astros have been as good a stretch as he has put up at any time in his career with a no-hitter, one Cy Young, two All Star appearances with an overall 2.45 ERA/ 0.837 WHIP, 12.1 K/ 9 IP and 1.6 BB/ 9 IP.
The man wants to pitch well into his 40’s and there really is nothing that says that he can’t do it between his physical talent and the obvious talent between his ears.