Author: Matthew Pouliot

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander has a 4.00 ERA and $167 million coming his way


Even though the Tigers still had Justin Verlander signed for two more years, they signed their right-hander to a huge contract this spring that essentially made him the highest-paid pitcher ever. He’ll receive $28 million per year every year from 2015-2019.

That’s kind of a scary thought right now, isn’t it? Verlander gave up seven more runs Thursday in a loss to the White Sox. He fell to 10-8 with a 3.99 ERA for the season. Six times this year he’s allowed at least five earned runs in an outing. Only Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Jeremy Guthrie, with seven such outings, have done so more frequently.

That’s certainly not to say Verlander has been all bad. He has eight outings in which he’s allowed one or no earned runs, including two this month. His ERA ranks just 24th in the AL, but he is sixth in strikeouts and seventh in innings pitched. He’s hardly been a liability.

What is worrying is that Verlander’s average fastball has tumbled to 92.7 mph this year, according to Fangraphs’ Baseball Info Solutions data. He came in at 94.3 mph in 2012, and he was in the 95-96 mph range each of the three years before that.

Verlander isn’t falling apart, but it seems pretty likely that his peak has already come and gone. Before his Cy Young season in 2011, his career best ERA in six seasons was 3.37 and WHIP was 1.16. The mid-3.00 ERAs seem like the better bet for the future than the mid-2.00s of 2011 and ’12. And that’s probably the optimistic scenario for the Tigers, considering that he was baseball’s hardest working pitcher from 2009-2102.

The Tigers still had Verlander under control for two more years when they extended him this spring. Technically, it was announced as a brand new seven-year, $180 million contract, but in reality, it was a five-year, $140 million extension for 2015-19. At that rate, the deal had very little upside. Verlander needs to remain one of baseball’s best pitchers to justify that kind of salary, and that’s an awful lot to ask. There aren’t many pitchers in history who can claim to have had an eight- or 10-year run as one of baseball’s best.

If not for the extension, the Tigers would currently owe Verlander $27 million through the end of 2014. That sounds a whole lot better to me than $167 million through 2019.

Alex Rodriguez goes on WFAN, says he’s wants to play

New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez talks with manager Joe Girardi while they play Baltimore Orioles in MLB game in New York

It’s hard to imagine that Alex Rodriguez thought this would turn out well.

The beleaguered Rodriguez decided to call into Mike Francesa on WFAN late this afternoon and tell the world that he’s ready to play and that the Yankees are holding him back.

The move comes after Rodriguez took part in a conference call with Yankees management on Thursday afternoon. According to the New York Times, both Rodriguez and the Yankees agreed to a plan that would have A-Rod play in a simulated or minor league game on Aug. 1 and come off the DL a day or two later.

Rodriguez said on WFAN that he agreed to the plan even though he’d rather play tomorrow. Asked whether he still trust the Yankees, he replied, “I’d rather not get into that.”

Rodriguez’s counter comes after a report earlier in the day that he was facing discipline from the Yankees for getting an unauthorized second opinion on his quad injury. These latest public comments are sure to further inflame a relationship with the Yankees that’s already deteoriated to a point beyond which it may never recover. Obviously, the only thing still keeping the two parties together is the $100 million the Yankees owe Rodriguez. One wonders just how much of that they’d now be willing to eat just to get rid of him once and for all.

Bryce Harper hits his first of many walkoff homers

Bryce Harper

After the Nationals coughed up a 7-3 lead in the top of the ninth Thursday against the Pirates, Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, giving Washington a 9-7 win.

Harper’s homer came off Bryan Morris with two outs in the ninth. He had gone 12 straight games without an RBI before delivering his shot just over the wall in left center. It was his first homer since July 1 and 14th of the season.

The Nationals needed Harper to play the hero because Rafael Soriano and Ian Krol combined to give up four runs in the top of the ninth. Soriano walked the first two batters he faced and gave up two hits while retiring just one batter afterwards. He was pulled from a 7-5 game with left-hander Pedro Alvarez coming up. Krol ended up walking Alvarez (when being able to throw just one breaking ball in the vicinity of the plate probably would have gotten him a strikeout) and giving up a two-run single to Josh Harrison.

The contest ended with neither manager in his respective dugout. Davey Johnson was tossed in the fifth, and Clint Hurdle was ejected two innings later. The sloppy game featured three Pirates errors in the Nationals’ four-run first inning.