Power Ranking and Grading Each of Justin Verlander's Pitches

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 1, 2012

Power Ranking and Grading Each of Justin Verlander's Pitches

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    It may be debatable as to whether Detroit Tigers ace pitcher Justin Verlander is the best hurler in all of baseball.

    As far as "stuff" is concerned, however, forget about it.

    Despite receiving a league-low run support of 4.2 runs per start, the flame-throwing Verlander is at the forefront of the Tigers' push for the playoffs. He hasn't declined much at all coming off his AL Cy Young Award-winning season.

    Perhaps even more difficult to analyze, though, is to power rank and grade of the array of lethal pitches in Verlander's arsenal. It's akin to having to shop for a car, with all the choices being worth six figures.

    Verlander's arm is worth eight figures—just over $20 million per year—and it's worth breaking down just how good his pitching repertoire is, using some revealing Brooks Baseball statistics.

4. Slider

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    The newest pitch Verlander added is the slider, which he uses only about 10 percent of the time.

    In a story by Sports Illustrated magazine's Gennaro Flice, he notes that Verlander refers to the slider somewhat listlessly. It's just sort of there when he wants it.

    Verlander's slider can still hit near 90 miles per hour, and can be devastating if he's ahead in the count.

    Since it's the pitching artist's latest addition to his pallet, though, he simply doesn't use it as frequently as the other three pitches.

    That isn't to discount how nasty the slider is. It has plenty of movement, and at roughly 21 percent, it is the pitch that most often goes for a called strike.

    If it was more prominently featured, it would likely rank ahead of his circle change-up.

    Grade: B+

3. Circle Change-Up

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    This is where the most hitters try to take advantage of Verlander. The problem is, they don't often succeed.

    A circle change-up tails off to the right. Thanks to the consistency of Verlander's delivery and how much he can move his two-seam fastball, the circle change looks like the same pitch.

    Then it gets about five feet away from the plate and suddenly bottoms out. On top of that, it is traveling as much as 15 to 20 miles per hour slower than his four-seam fastball.

    Batters swing and miss at this pitch 38 percent of the time, the highest of any of Verlander's pitches. However, it is also the pitch that is put in play more than the other three, and it has resulted in three home runs allowed this season.

    Relatively speaking, Verlander's circle change is fantastic, but it is not among his best two pitches.

    Grade: A-

2. 12-6 Curveball

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    Clocking in at an average just below 80 miles per hour, Verlander uses his curveball to make opponents look flat out silly.

    In 2011, Chicago White Sox right fielder Dayan Viciedo got a taste of the disgusting curve on a called third strike.

    Verlander has hitters all over the league contorting their bodies in funny ways, flinging bats in frustration and just being flat out befuddled by this pitch.

    The drastic drop in velocity makes it so effective, but the way Verlander can vary his off-speed pitches stretches the range of the curveball from the mid-70s to the upper mid-80s on the radar gun.

    While some pitchers with a 12-6 curve can let it hang, Verlander's has so much movement to it that such a thing doesn't happen. His prey can't manage to drive the ball when the pitch arrives, especially since Verlander has only used it on 14 percent of his pitches in 2012.

    With this kind of description, you'd think the curveball would be Verlander's top pitch. But it isn't, and that's why he has the best stuff in the majors.

    Grade: A

1. Fastball

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    With both a two-seam and a four-seam fastball that look the exact same coming out of his hand, it's easy to understand why it is Verlander's go-to pitch.

    He is able to conserve energy throughout the game while easily fooling batters.

    Thanks to so much movement on his two-seam, Verlander can rely on it heavily. Thanks to his arm talent, even his two-seamer thrown with little effort has more pop than non-power pitchers’ four-seam fastballs.

    Then, late in the game, Verlander can pull out what he calls “the moneymaker.”

    That is of course in reference to the four-seam fastball. In a game against the Cleveland Indians last season, Verlander gunned it at 102 miles per hour in the eighth inning. That pitch struck out the side.

    Verlander essentially toys with hitters, stringing them along before blowing them away late in the game with insane velocity.

    The legendary endurance Verlander displays is a result of dedicated training. That combined with freakish natural ability translates to a perennial Cy Young Award contender, and almost certainly a future Hall of Famer.

    It all starts with that adjustable, blazing, and devastating fastball.

    Grade: A+