KANSAS CITY -- Justin Verlander and Jim Leyland can disagree on his strategy of pitching, as they clearly did Saturday night. One thing they can agree on is that his velocity is no longer the question behind his struggles.
Realistically, it hasn't been for a while. On Saturday, it clearly wasn't.
Verlander's fastball Saturday averaged just under 96 mph, according to data from MLB.com Gameday and brooksbaseball.net. It was his best velocity of the year. His command of it, on the other hand, was not.
There's a stronger correlation between Verlander's fastball strike rate and his success this year than his velocity. When he has pitched at his best, he has usually thrown strikes with close to 70 percent of his fastballs. On Saturday, he threw 28 of his 44 fastballs for strikes. That amounts to a 63.64 percent rate, or the exact same rate of strikes he threw with his changeup.
His hardest pitches ranged around that 32-pitch fourth inning, when he loaded the bases twice and walked in a run.
To suggest he isn't throwing as hard as he used to seems to be an old argument now. Whether he can actually command it the same way when he throws hard now, or anywhere close, is another matter. If he's throwing his pitches carefully, as Leyland suggested Saturday, that's another matter.
"I mean, I'm not concerned about his fastball. He's throwing hard," catcher Alex Avila said Saturday night. "When he's throwing it there and he has good command of it, they're not taking good swings. And when they do, they're not hitting it hard. They haven't really been taking good swings off his fastball. It's just making sure you can not only get ahead of guys, but finishing them with the same release point."