Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball. He won both the Cy Young and MVP award in 2011, becoming the first starting pitcher to do so since Roger Clemens in 1986. His fastball tops out at 100 MPH, and he only becomes more dominant as he goes deeper in his outings. Up until game one of the World Series, Verlander was 3-0 this postseason with a miniscule 0.74 ERA and a .122 OBA (opponent batting average). So why is it that the most dominant pitcher in the game today has now lost his third straight career World Series game? Here are four possible reasons why:
1. Too much time off
Back in 2006, Verlander had nine days off after the ALCS ended in four games against the Oakland A’s. This time around he had seven days off after the Tigers defeated the Yankees in four games. Like in 2006, Verlander simply did not look sharp in game one of the World Series. He left too many pitches out over the plate, and the Giants took advantage. Who would think that sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS could have actually hurt Detroit’s ace? It’s certainly possible.
2. Opposing lineups are locked in
Give the Giants a whole lot of credit for knocking Verlander out early. Their hitters are locked in after winning the last three games of the NLCS to defeat the Cardinals. Marco Scutaro hit .500 in the series, slapping 14 hits in just seven games. Pablo Sandoval too is dialed in this postseason, and that showed in game one as he mashed two Verlander mistakes over the wall. The Giants are focused, and their hitters were ready for anything Verlander had to throw at them.
3. Facing unfamiliar opponents
Verlander had only faced the Giants once before in his career, and this could play at an advantage for San Francisco. The Giants offense had to prepare for one man. Verlander had to prepare to face nine unique batters. Like in 2006, he did not have much experience against the Cardinals. That being said, he did bounce back and pitch well in game five of the 06′ World Series. Expect him to do the same if he gets another opportunity this year.
4. Can’t handle the pressure (unlikely but possible)
Yes, this is highly unlikely that a pitcher such as Verlander would collapse under the pressure. However, it should not be ruled out. Even the best in the game can struggle on baseball’s biggest stage. Again, it’s unlikely to be the case because Verlander had been near perfect this October. The reason for his struggles is likely a combination of the three circumstances above.