Weaver-Verlander an edge-of-your-seat face-off
One guy can embarrass you with the pure speed of his stuff, while the other can deceive you with the sheer size of his body, the ball seemingly coming at you from the third-base dugout.Sunday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline has our attention, certainly, but there will be another form of dealing going on that afternoon at Comerica Park, where the Tigers' Justin Verlander and the Angels' Jered Weaver will face each other in a showdown of two American League Cy Young Award favorites. For those of us living in Eastern Standard Time, Verlander has been a fascination all year. I have a boss responsible for, among other things, coordinating our MLB.com coverage plan in the event of a no-hitter in this region, and suffice to say the lights don't go out in his house every fifth night until Verlander gives up his first hit. Weaver is less of a no-hit threat, and his audience in these parts is comprised of quite a few more night owls. But as stunning as Verlander's statistics have been this season, Weaver's are right in line or, in some cases, better. The fact that both are on contending teams makes the battle all the better. The basic rundown: Starts: Verlander, 23; Weaver, 22.
Record: Verlander, 14-5; Weaver, 14-4.
ERA: Verlander, 2.34; Weaver, 1.79.
K's: Verlander, 169; Weaver, 134.
BBs: Verlander, 34; Weaver, 37.
IP: Verlander, 173; Weaver, 161.
WHIP: Verlander, 0.89; Weaver, 0.95.
Adjusted ERA: Verlander 163; Weaver 208. The only other AL arm quite in this particular class -- and I state this with no disrespect intended to the likes of Josh Beckett, Gio Gonzalez and Alexi Ogando this season -- is CC Sabathia. Not only has Sabathia turned in a 15-5 record and 162 ERA+ in 168 2/3 innings over 23 starts, but he's been in what you'd consider the elite arm category since 2007, the first full season he put all the pieces of his potential together and won a Cy Young. Sabathia might well win another one, but the voters will have plenty to think about with regard to Weaver and Verlander. "Hopefully we can get into that CC category," Weaver said. "But I think we still have a little ways to go to prove that." Perhaps, but 2011 has already proven to be a year in which both right-handers have taken a substantial leap. I wrote at length recently about how Verlander has extended his innings totals this season to become a truly must-see act. And that's a testament to the manner in which he preserves his pure filth from the first inning to the last. "His stamina is almost unmatched," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell, whose club was no-hit by Verlander in May. "That game against us, he was 92-96 [mph] the first six innings, and from the seventh on, it was 98-101. It was like, 'Where is this coming from?' The stamina is what's really, really impressive. That's probably just a glimpse of the work he does between starts to keep himself in shape." Similarly, Weaver's most significant advancement this season might be the improvement he's made in the stamina department. His innings-per-outing were 6.39 in 2009 and 6.59 in '10, and those were both impressive totals that allowed him to work a total of 211 and 224 1/3 innings, respectively. But this year, he's more consistently working into the eighth, averaging 7.32 innings per start. "With his pitchability," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "he's added more length to his game, and that's an important thing, when you're talking about that elite group, is their ability to finish games." Weaver has joked -- and he's not really joking -- that the ability to work deeper into games was a hot topic in his arbitration discussions with the Angels last offseason. He's certainly addressed it. "As I've gotten older, (Scioscia) has given me a little bit more leeway to prove to him that I can throw more pitches," Weaver said. "Getting older, trying to mature as a pitcher and trying to get early outs instead of trying to strike people out is all part of growing as a pitcher." Speaking of growth, Weaver's physical size is a major separator for him. "You're talking about a guy who's 6-foot-7," teammate Torii Hunter said. "When he lets go of the ball, it's like he's slapping you in the face, because he's so long." Weaver doesn't have near the velocity of a Verlander, as his fastball averages out around 90 mph, but the depth of his repertoire and the deception of his long delivery go a long way, as this season has shown. Because of his raw velocity, Verlander notches more strikeouts. But he also induces more ground balls. His 41.2 ground-ball percentage is below league average, but it's still better than Weaver's 33.5 clip. It is impressive, then, that, for all his fly-ball tendencies, Weaver, who has no doubt benefited from the Angels' outfield speed, has only allowed six homers this season. In fact, his 0.34 homers-per-nine-innings mark bests that of Verlander (0.73). Really, you could nitpick the Weaver vs. Verlander stat sheet argument to death. But it'll be more fun to just watch them pitch on Sunday.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.