Justin Verlander: Behind the curtain of a pitching genius

A recent article by Brian McTaggart, who is an actual fine writing baseball journalist in a world of junk writers, included a fascinating look at the Astros’ ace, Justin Verlander.

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.

37 comments on “Justin Verlander: Behind the curtain of a pitching genius

  1. The article is a great reminder of why Verlander is so good. He is great at wanting to fix something that isn’t right with his pitching.
    It’s been a while since last season, but I remember how many home runs he gave up off of fastballs and am not surprised when he says he lost velocity and wanted to fix it. The fact that he CAN fix it, at his age, is a wonder to me.
    Having Verlander as our ace is very comforting.
    I haven’t forgotten that LMJ looked good yesterday, too.
    I thought the hitters were supposed to be far ahead of the pitchers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Because someone in the organization was exposed to someone with COVID – the team is cancelling today’s practice. This is not looking too good.

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  3. Someone dropped a beautiful Black Lab puppy off outside on the road in front of one of our kids house the other night. I took the puppy off their hands today and I am the one who’s lost now. It has been a long, long day. It has also been tomato/salsa canning day.

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      • You aren’t a city slicker, Dan. You are just a country guy who hasn’t made it to the country yet.
        My daughter sold two gallons of the blackberries I picked this week.

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    • Ah, mangoes, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of fruits. When hard and fibrous it’s like eating something fresh from the woodchipper. BUT, if ripe and soft and cold and juicy, it’s the best of all fruits, imho.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Years ago I read a book by George Will called “Men at Work”, where he chose several players and a manager and talked to them about how they think about and prepare to be the best at their craft. Fascinating business, and surely Verlander would earn a chapter if the book is ever updated.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A long time ago in baseball years, I asked on here which Astros live in Houston. Well, if you take the Chronicle, this morning in the magazine you will find six
    pages of photos of Jose Altuve’s home in Memorial Villages, where he lives year-round. It’s totally new and startlingly modern and he and his wife searched for it for years. They had a particular interior style in mind and this was adjusted to their specs. He came from poverty in Venezuela. I came from near poverty here in Houston and I would never have had a clue how to request or demand what is in this house. The last sentence of the article: “What’s interesting in the house is that you don’t feel like you’re in Houston.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So…….assuming I there is a 2020 season I guess we should expect many delays and postponements due to testing delays.
    Well, at least it’s some form of baseball.

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    • Sandy, it’s all been planned. There will be new games based on “Will there be a game today and if so, what time, and how long will it last?” “Who’s a scaredy cat?” Instead of who’s on first, it’s “Who goes first?” Might even be a twilight double deader. Don’t blame me. I grew up on Jules Feiffer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As a foot note for those who don’t want to google it – Jules Feiffer was a cartoonist who mostly specialized in satire – which explains Diane well. He also wrote books and screenplays (Carnal Knowledge, Popeye) and is still alive and kicking at 91 years old.

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  7. A few weeks back I had asked y’all to pray for one of my choir members, Rich, who was going through some serious health issues. Rich passed away over the weekend and it is hard for me to come to grips with this.
    Richard had been a hematologist for many years, but had been in retirement for the last few. I joined the choir shortly after they opened the church in 1992, but a number of the folks that are still with the choir, including Richard had been singing with them in the days that they sang out of the Parish Hall. We had not joined them as we had little kids and waited until the church and cry room existed.
    Back in those days the music ministry consisted of about 8 voices and our choir director Mary Thompson’s guitar and sometimes a piano. If we had any kind of event the one choir took it – including Holy Week where we sang Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Saturday night Vigil and Easter Sunday.
    Rich was always there with his big bass voice, always on tune and one of the true leaders in the choir.
    I will miss him and feel so sorry for his wife, Jean as she had to go through this including time the last week when no one was allowed to visit him. They had lost a daughter in the last 5 years and that knowledge hung very heavy on them.
    Please say a prayer today for a fine man and his family. Thanks

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    • Brings a tear.
      Very sorry for the loss in your life, Dan.

      It is nice of you to chronicle a cherished memory on his behalf. We should all have such good friends.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, sorry about your faith mate. Death is the dominant figure on my landscape having lost all family save an East Texas cousin and recently some covid fatalities among extended friends’ families. Up above not trying to shock anyone, just that my default position is often humor (so-called). I am a believer but sometimes it all gets too heavy for me and it’s probably better to be wry than to deliver a Hamlet soliloquy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Couldn’t resist the theme of lamenting an old friend

        “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
        of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
        borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
        abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
        it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
        not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
        gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
        that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
        now, to mock your own grinning?

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      • Are you sure you aren’t talking about Yellich instead of Yorick?

        Well you can’t say we don’t bring the world a little culture once in a while. Thanks Go Stros…..

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    • Thanks OP, GoStros, Diane…. it is weird I can hear his voice both speaking and singing in my head and that is a bit consoling.

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      • After my mom passed from matastatic, I kept her answering machine for years just to hear it again. Dang, that was 2008 and it still hurts a lot.

        I can still hear her say to me though, “it’s going to be alright.”
        I can still see her ask me as they put her in the ambulance for the last time, “are you alright?”

        At least maybe you have those hymns of hope ringing in your heart, remebering Richard.

        Liked by 1 person

      • GoStros, I had a friend from the age of 12 until she passed of cancer in 1996. She called and left a voice message not too long before. Your comment reminds me: I still have that tape. My experience is that people’s voices stay the same the longest of all attributes, along with eyes, depending.

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      • Your lovingkindness is apparent, Diane.
        And Dan
        [You comment reminds me of the final words in my favorite movie, A River Runs Through It. And I’m still “walking with” the Springsteen article you posted. What was Joe’s last name again?]

        Stay safe and strong, everyone!

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  8. The Astros were without their pitchers on Sunday (from those training at Minute Maid) and Brent Strom and his crew because of the exposure issue. Waiting on testing.

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    • Something tells me the Astros pitching situation, with less time to prepare and some pitchers missing, might force them to move some young pitchers into the mix. It’s something I have looked forward to.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Abreu Javier Pruitt Armenteros Whitley Paredes Sneed were all going to get a look this year, most probably.

        Those who must’ve felt like Christmas day when they announced expanded 60-man? Scrubb, Taylor, Garcia, Conine, Garza.

        So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance?!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Yordan Alvarez and Jose Urquidy were placed on the 10 day IL without explanation. Make your own assumptions why.
    The Astros will travel to KC next week to play two exhibition games against a team they won’t face in the regular season.
    Talk amongst yourself…

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