- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
The topic was Justin Verlander, and the two veteran hitters who had faced him this year spoke of the Cy Young winner in their dugout with great respect, but also with professional honesty.
"He’s not the same guy," said one of the players.
The other nodded: "Not even close."
They talked about how Verlander’s fastball in 2013 was less than it used to be, and about how this changed everything in the challenge of hitting against him. Because he wasn’t throwing as hard and couldn’t throw the ball past them, as he had in the past, he relied much more on his off-speed stuff. "He's got to trick you now," said one of the hitters. "He never had to do that before."
The early diagnosis of Verlander from these two particular players was the same shared by a lot of evaluators: All those innings logged, all those games when he drove himself past 120 pitches, as the game’s best pitcher, had finally begun to catch up to him.
Well ... so much for that.
Verlander had said all summer that he felt that there were mechanical adjustments he needed to make, tweaks that would get his delivery back to maximum efficiency, and apparently he has made them, because at the end of what has generally been a less-than-dominant year, he has been exceptional, again.