Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander does not appear human at times. A fierce competitor, with an almost tireless, rubber-like arm, Verlander looks more like a descendant from Mork and Mindy's Planet Ork than Planet Earth.
A threat to toss a no-hitter every time he takes the hill, players on opposing ball clubs cannot help but sigh when they see Verlander on the docket.
Watching opposing hitters trek back to the dugout after another Verlander strikeout is like watching a demoralized teen drag their legs from that sheet of paper on the gym wall that screams, "Sorry kid, you did not make the team."
Yet for all of Verlander's exhilarating performances and well-deserved accolades, this All-Star did not magically appear on Earth in a small egg-shaped spaceship like Mork did more than three decades ago.
While dominant, it took Verlander several years to truly master his powers. Before 2011, this consummate workhorse boasted a 83-52 record, but had never enjoyed a season with an ERA less than 3.37.
Not terrible by any means, I know. But looking at Verlander's gaudy stats from 2011/2012 shows just how much he has developed as a major league pitcher.
|YR||G||W||L ||ERA ||IP ||H ||ER ||BB ||SO||SO/BB||WHIP|
|2011||34 ||24 ||4 ||2.40 ||251.0 ||174 ||67 ||57 ||250 ||4.39||0.92|
With Verlander's success, he has now become a role-model for Dylan Bundy—one of the Orioles most highly-touted pitching prospects in decades.
According MASN's Steve Melewski, Orioles' Director of Pitching Development Rick Peterson wants his minor league coaches to develop Bundy according to Verlanderian principles.
"We are trying to develop Dylan Bundy into the same kind of model of a Justin Verlander. You know, power fastball, curveball, changeup pitcher. Not a fastball, cutter, changeup."
Great on the Orioles!
Bundy is going to learn two valuable lessons at the earliest stages of his professional career—lessons that took Verlander a few years to realize.
These lessons are as follows:
Lesson One: The cut fastball is like the latest vial of crack: It has a catchy name, but in the end it may kill you (ask Tommy Hunter).
Lesson Two: Master the three aforesaid pitches, using Verlander as your guide. Study how Verlander changes speeds, while using these three pitches to demoralize hitters.
Sounds like a simple approach, doesn't it?
But that is the beauty.
Sometimes in baseball, pitching coaches tend to over-complicate things so much, a pitcher ends up drowning in a sea of confusion.
This partially explains why some truly talented pitchers fail to truly live up to their potential.
But for Peterson to grab Bundy by the collar and show him a photo of Verlander will do nothing but great things for this young phenom's success going forward.
And if Bundy can master what Verlander has mastered...watch out, for Baltimore may get to enjoy watching a terrific pitcher for years to come.
Better yet, if Peterson can instill Verlanderian pitching principles throughout the Orioles organization, we may very well see a changing of the guard in the American League East.
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