What’s wrong with Justin Verlander?


Justin Verlander got off to a great start this season, posting a 2.48 ERA in April, but he’s looked unlike his usual dominant self since the calendar flipped to May and that continued this afternoon with a rough outing against the Blue Jays.

Verlander allowed six runs in seven innings versus Toronto, serving up two homers, and has now allowed 33 runs in 46 innings since May 1 for a 5.67 ERA over seven starts. Even the best players struggle at times and certainly seven poor starts is hardly the end of the world for Verlander, but his 30/20 K/BB ratio during that time is uncharacteristic as well and his average fastball velocity is down to a career-low 92.2 miles per hour.

In fact, Verlander’s average fastball has declined from 95.0 to 94.3 to 93.3 to 92.2 since 2011. So he’s throwing slower than ever, he’s struggling for the past 5-6 weeks, and his strikeout rate of 6.4 per nine innings is his lowest since he was a 23-year-old rookie in 2006. Maybe it’ll all prove to be a minor speed bump for the former MVP and Cy Young winner–he was actually throwing a little harder today, for instance–but at age 31 and in the second season of a seven-year, $180 million contract extension it’s definitely cause for concern.

He’s scheduled to face rookie slugger Jose Abreu and the White Sox’s third-ranked offense next week, in Chicago.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.