On Tuesday night I sat down and turned on the beginning of the New York Mets vs Detroit Tigers game.

I did have some vesting interest in the game since I have Ike Davis and Brennan Boesch on my fantasy team, but I also had interest in the game due to the fact that Justin Verlander was on the mound for the Tigers.

I have always enjoyed watching Verlander pitch, mainly because he is one of the few pitchers in baseball who can throw a 100 mph fastball and also snap off a knee-buckling curve ball.

Verlander is having a good season so far with an 8-5 record and a 3.94 ERA; however, he might be having a better season if it weren’t for the first inning.

Verlander really struggles in the first inning and Tuesday night was no exception.

Verlander allowed two runs in the first inning against the Mets and now has an ERA of 9.00 in the first inning of games this year. That’s 15 runs in 15 innings for those of you scoring at home.

Hitters have a .333/.391/.567 hitting line with three home runs in the first inning off Verlander. Compare that to a .230/.291/.321 hitting for innings two to nine and you can see the difference.

So what is the reason for Verlander’s first inning struggles?

I have two answers. One scientific, the other—not so much.

The scientific answer is that hitters have a .386 BAbip (Batting Average on Ball in Play) off of Verlander in the first inning, which I don’t think is sustainable throughout the course of a 35-start season. That average is bound to go down, which in turn, will make Verlander more effective in the first.

The non-scientific answer is that Verlander is too jacked up coming out of the gate.

If you watched that game last night against the Mets, the majority of pitches to Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan, and David Wright were up in the zone. Usually when a pitcher consistently misses up in the zone early in the game, it means that there is too much adrenaline pumping and he is overthrowing.

Verlander’s struggles in the first are nothing new. Last year, Verlander had a 5.14 ERA in the first. I am surprised a pitcher of his caliber hasn’t been able to pinpoint the issue yet.

Perhaps Verlander will get better by simulating the first inning in his bullpen session before the game. What ever the reason for Verlander’s struggles in the first, one thing is clear — if his opponent doesn’t get to him early, then they might never get to him at all.


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