We’re less than 12 hours removed from literally the team’s first game of the season and I have no intention of making too much of anything. But I do want to call attention to one aspect of Verlander’s start that didn’t get openly discussed last night: his curveball.
Here’s a Brooks Baseball chart of his horizontal and vertical movement carved up by season. Brooks hasn’t updated to include the 2016 numbers on the full player pages, but I’ll do the work for them because this will be simple.
I only added in the curveball, but that’s the topic here. The movement on his curveball is similar to what he was throwing in 2012. The group of three curveballs in the upper left are 2007, 2008, and 2015. The bottom right are 2010, 2011, and 2012. (That makes the middle three 2009, 2013, and 2014). Here’s the link to the page if you want to actually explore.
I’m not going to suggest 16 curveballs during one start is some sort of definitive statement about his return to dominance, but put it together with solid average velocity (93.6 mph) and 16 whiffs (plus a foul tip) and you have yourself a nice Opening Day start. Five strikeouts, two walks, and three runs over six innings isn’t an outstanding line, but there were clearly things to like about our first look at Verlander this year.