Justin Verlander’s Game Scores in October: 48, 62, 43, 51. If you’re into Season Score, Verlander’s “Postseason Score” is 24. Through four regular season starts, Chris Tillman had a Season Score of 34. Brian Duensing’s was 43. Kyle McClellan’s was 44.
Some of this, of course, was beyond Verlander’s control. Two of his four starts have been interrupted by rain long before Verlander had reached his pitch limit. But let’s also remember that he gave up four runs in the five innings he pitched in those games. He’s gone deep into his uninterrupted starts (8 and 7 1/3 innings, respectively), and the strikeouts are there (25 in 20 1/3 postseason innings). But so are the walks (10), and he’s given up 19 hits, two of which were home runs.
What does all of this mean? Not much. We could surmise that his success this season was largely aided by all his starts against weak AL Central lineups, but we don’t really have enough postseason data to jump to that conclusion. We could say he’s gassed from pitching 270+ innings this year, but that’s probably not fair either. If the Tigers had any semblance of a bullpen to turn to last night, Verlander wouldn’t have been on the mound to give up Nelson Cruz’s home run on his 133rd pitch. Keep him out of the eighth inning last night and his Season Score is up to 34, with Game Scores over 60 in each of his rain-free starts. Without that inning, his postseason ERA would be 4.43, rather than his actual 5.31, and his FIP would be 2.96 (rather than 3.50).
I think the best conclusion we can make from Verlander’s postseason struggles is that the circumstances are different in the playoffs. When you’re an ace and your bullpen is overtaxed, you’re going to throw a few extra pitches. If that means another round of Beltre-Napoli-Cruz (has there ever been a scarier 5-6-7 in a playoff lineup?), well, good luck. The Tigers have won both of Verlander’s dry starts, and even if they won more despite him than because of him, they’ll take those results any day.