Yesterday, beloved Tigers ace Justin Verlander turned thirty years old. He accomplished a great deal in his twenties such as winning two pennants, Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young, and an MVP award to go along with 124 wins (39.3 WAR) and the title of best pitcher in baseball. Sometime in the next two years, he’ll also likely sign the largest contract ever given to a pitcher.
Verlander is an extraordinary pitcher and we love him for that, but Justin Verlander is also extremely terrible at something. Hitting.
Put more clearly, Justin Verlander accumulated exactly zero hits before his 30th birthday.
He’s 0-24 with 9 sac bunts, 14 strikeouts and one GIDP. That is a very bad stat line if you’re not familiar with baseball. His triple slash line is all zeros and his wRC+ is -100. League average is 100 (notice the absence of a minus sign).
Well, so what, AL pitchers can’t be asked to hit, right? Well they have to hit a little bit.
In 2012, AL pitchers made 319 plate appearances (about half a season for a standard position player) and posted a .122/.143/.129 slash line. That is very bad by any field player standard, but it is a line of which Verlander can only dream.
Over the last seven seasons (JV’s career), AL pitchers hit a collective .118. He has hit .000.
So to even be average among his peers, Verlander should have between two and three hits in his career. Of course it’s a small sample, but this is a fun post, so we get to ignore that.
Let’s go further, since 2006, 29 pitchers have twenty or more plate appearances in an AL uniform. Guess how many don’t have a hit?
Two. Only Verlander and Jon Lester. Only Lester, Kevin Milwood, and Tim Wakefield have more strikeouts than JV.
So while, AL pitchers are rarely asked to hit, the AL’s best pitcher is probably one of the league’s very worst hitters, even among his peers.
Justin Verlander is spectacular at many things, but hitting is not one of them. He has two no-hitters and only four men have three. It would surprise no one if he joined that group this year. But could 2013 be the year he finally gets a hit?
That seems like a longshot.
The league’s best pitcher is quite possibly the league’s worst hitter. Now, who wants to tell him?