2011 Fantasy Projections No 56: How Is Justin Verlander Like Wandy Rodriguez?

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2011 Fantasy Projections No 56: How Is Justin Verlander Like Wandy Rodriguez?
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Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

Much like Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander has given us three very different looks in the last three seasons.

In 2008, Verlander posted ugly strikeout (7.30) and walk (3.90) rates, and an even uglier ERA (4.84) on his way to losing 17 games.

In 2009, Verlander flipped the switch, setting career bests in K/9 (10.09), BB/9 (2.36), ERA (3.45) and wins (19). His FIP (2.80) and xFIP (3.26) suggested he was (and would continue to be) even better.

2010 brought a more realistic, yet still very good version of Verlander. In his fourth consecutive season logging 200-plus innings, Verlander settled in with 18 wins, a 3.37 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.79 K/9 and 2.85 BB/9. His FIP (2.97) and xFIP (3.68) didn’t suggest anything out of the ordinary.

Last season also marked the third consecutive year in which Verlander improved in these important areas:

  • HR/9: 0.81 (‘08), 0.75 (‘09), 0.56 (‘10)
  • Batting average against: .250 (‘08), .240 (‘09), .224 (‘10)
  • WHIP: 1.40 (‘08), 1.18 (‘09), 1.16 (‘10)
  • ERA: 4.48 (‘08), 3.45 (‘09), 3.37 (‘10)

The key to Verlander’s evolution appears to be his changeup, which has also shown vast improvements over the last three seasons:

  • 2008: 3.2 runs above average
  • 2009: 7.6 runs above average
  • 2010: 12.3 runs above average

Further (as if you didn’t already know), Verlander boasts one of the most overpowering heaters in the majors. Last year his average fastball velocity was 95.4 MPH, second only to Ubaldo Jimenez.

If there are any red flags, they lie in Verlander’s recent Wandy Rodriguez-like home/road splits:

  • 2009: Home (2.81 ERA, 1.08 WHIP), Road: (4.04 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
  • 2010: Home (2.31 ERA, 1.04 WHIP), Road: (4.45 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)

I hate to rank a player with such uneven splits this high, but his home (and overall numbers, in fact) are tough to ignore. Verlander owners might want to consider benching him for tough road starts early in the season, particularly his Opening Day matchup at Yankee Stadium.

Projecting Verlander for 2011, we now (hopefully) know what to expect from him. I foresee totals very similar to what he posted in 2010, a prediction I rarely make. The 28-year-old checks in as the 12th pitcher on our 2011 big board, No. 56 overall.

2010 stats 224.1 18 8.79 2.85 3.37 1.16
3-year average 221.2 16 8.81 2.99 3.84 1.24
2011 FBI Forecast 224 18 9.00 2.60 3.35 1.17


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