Just so we’re clear on all this, Jim Leyland was not prepared to make Justin Verlander available in relief a week ago when the Tigers faced potential elimination in game 5 of the ALDS. He was, however, prepared to have him pitch 56 times in a side session that very afternoon. Verlander even double-checked with his manager before starting the session, probably asking the weird old coot some form of the same question the rest of us had. Nonetheless, Verlander threw that afternoon, and sat that evening.
The only logical conclusion we can come to is that Leyland was protecting Verlander’s arm. He’s thrown a lot of pitches this season, and a major injury to the team’s marquee player would no doubt be a disaster, but as Dave Cameron points out, it’s a rather odd time for Leyland to suddenly dig his heels in on this. And unless all of those 56 side session pitches were of the low-stress underhand variety, color me perplexed.
Even still, perhaps we need to give Leyland the benefit of the doubt on this. He’s managed a game or two more than I have in the big leagues, and it’s not impossible that he’s privy to some kind of super-secret Verlander Arm information that the rest of us don’t have—he could just be following orders from higher up in the organization.
All of this is butterflies and onions until one considers the pitch count Justin Verlander logged this afternoon against the Rangers—the robust number of 133, to be exact. I’m far from a crazy pitch-count zealot, but if we’re supposedly looking out for the health of Verlander’s arm, this number seems a bit excessive. Oh, but this afternoon was a must-win situation, of course, so it all seems justified now. Except that game 5 a week ago was the exact same scenario? And Verlander was ruled out an entire day prior? I have to admit I’m a bit confused. Of course, Jim Leyland and the Tigers are free to treat their Cy Young candidate however they so choose. The Tigers won game 5 and they also won tonight, so maybe I’m an idiot and they’re all geniuses. But if I were a fan of the baseball team from Detroit, I’d be wanting for a bit more intellectual consistency.