A few weeks ago, I linked to Dave Cameron's take on Justin Verlander, who at the time was sporting a nifty 7.88 ERA after three starts. Verlander, Cameron argued, was throwing plenty well enough, but had been victimized by lousy luck.
Verlander Verlander's luck didn't improve in his fourth start, after which his ERA was a nice round baseball number: 9.
Since then, though? Including today's abbreviated gem -- well, it was a gem until the disastrous seventh, anyway -- against the Twins, Verlander's last four starts include three wins, 29 innings, 44 strikeouts, and three runs.
Cameron was right: We should have known, after those first three starts, that Verlander would come around. But should we have guessed before this season that he would rack up big numbers this spring? Verlander did pitch better last season than his 4.84 ERA (not to mention his league-leading 17 losses). But it wasn't just bad luck last season. Verlander's walks were up, his strikeouts were down, and so was the average speed of his fastball. This season the walks are down, the strikeouts are (way) up, and so is the fastball speed.
Just keep an eye on that radar gun. When Verlander's throwing 95 (as he has this year), he's a Cy Young candidate. When he's throwing 92 (as he did last year), he's just another guy.