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Detroit Fantasy Sports: Have Verlander and Stafford already peaked as pros?

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Two of Detroit’s most popular athletes – Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (aka “JV”) and Detroit Lions starting quarterback Matthew Stafford – may have already peaked and are on a downward slide professionally.

Verlander’s performance has slipped since 2011

Justin Verlander enters the All-Star break with an 8-8 record, a 4.88 ERA and a WHP of 1.457. Statistically, he has slipped each year after winning the Cy Young Award in 2011. If you look at his last five full seasons, JV’s numbers would chart like a bell-shaped curve.

  • 2009 - 19 wins, 9 losses, 240.9 innings pitched, 3.45 ERA, 1.163 WHP, 269 strikeouts
  • 2010 - 18 wins, 9 losses, 224.1 innings pitched, 3.37 ERA, 1.175 WHP, 219 strikeouts
  • 2011 - 24 wins, 5 losses, 251.0 innings pitched, 2.40 ERA, 0.929 WHP, 250 strikeouts
  • 2012 - 17 wins, 8 losses, 238.1 innings pitched, 2.64 ERA, 1.057 WHP, 239 strikeouts
  • 2013 - 13 wins, 12 losses, 218.1 innings pitched, 3.46 ERA, 1.315 WHP, 217 strikeouts

Fantasy baseball owners who picked Verlander early in the 2014 draft are probably second-guessing their selection of the Tigers’ ace pitcher. You could even question whether JV is the ace of the staff when you consider that Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez have better statistics this year.

  • Max Scherzer - 11 wins, 3 losses, 126.1 innings pitched, 3.35 ERA, 1.172 WHP, 146 strikeouts
  • Rick Porcello - 12 wins, 5 losses, 119.1innings pitched, 3.39 ERA, 1.182 WHP, 67 strikeouts
  • Anibal Sanchez - 6 wins, 3 losses, 94.2 innings pitched, 3.04 ERA, 1.035 WHP, 70 strikeouts
  • Justin Verlander -8 wins, 8 losses, 129.0 innings pitched, 4.88 ERA, 1.457 WHP, 96 strikeouts

Verlander has been the workhorse of the staff with 20 starts and 129 innings pitched this season, but he’s struggled to make it the third time through an opponent’s lineup. A prime example is the July 13th loss to the Kansas City Royals. JV gave up four straight singles in the bottom of the 7th inning and was charged with four earned runs.

Pitching coach Jeff Jones and Verlander have been watching film and tinkering with his delivery, but maybe JV’s arm is worn out. He has averaged over 234 innings per season since 2009. Or maybe the common belief is Verlander can struggle all he needs to during the regular season and then be a peak performer in the playoffs like he was in 2013.

Regardless of how he does it, Verlander’s second half performance must improve to satisfy anxious fantasy baseball owners and Detroit Tiger fans.

Stafford’s a fantasy prize, but below par in wins and losses

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is a prized selection for fantasy football owners, but he has won only 38.7% of the football games that he’s started in the NFL.

Like Verlander, Matthew Stafford’s best year as a pro athlete in Detroit was 2011. He threw for 5,038 yards, tossed 41 touchdown passes, completed 63.5 of his passes, had a 93.5 QB rating, led the Lions to a 10-6 record and lost in the 1st round of the playoffs to the New Orleans Saints, 45-28.

Stafford also mirrors Verlander with a bell-shaped curve representing his five-year career as the Lions starting quarterback.

  • 2009 - 2 wins, 8 losses, 53.3 completion % , 2,267 passing yards, 13 TD passes, 20 interceptions, 61.0 QB rating
  • 2010 - 1 win, 2 losses, 59.4 completion %, 535 passing yards, 6 TD passes, 1 interception, 91.3 QB rating
  • 2011 - 10 wins, 7 losses, 63.5 completion %, 5,038 passing yards,41 TD passes, 16 interceptions, 93.5 QB rating
  • 2012 - 4 wins, 12 losses, 59.8 completion %, 4,967 passing yards, 20 TD passes, 17 interceptions, 79.8 QB rating
  • 2013 - 7 wins, 9 losses, 58.5 completion %, 4,630 passing yards, 29 TD passes, 19 interceptions, 84.2 QB rating

Stafford has been drafted early in the last two fantasy football drafts, because his 2011 and 2012 statistics were impressive. However, fantasy football owners may be a bit leery when they see that his quarterback rating has slid downward in the last two years.

Another factor may be that the year (2009) that Stafford was drafted by the Lions as the No. 1 pick was not a good year for selecting a quarterback. Here is the current status of each QB drafted by an NFL team in 2009:

  • Matthew Stafford – Lions starting QB
  • Mark Sanchez – Eagles reserve QB
  • Josh Freeman – Giants reserve QB
  • Stephen McGee – unsigned free agent
  • Rhett Bomar – out of football
  • Nate Davis – Colts reserve QB
  • Tom Brandstater – out of football
  • Mike Teel - out of football
  • Keith Null – out of football
  • Curtis Painter – Giants reserve QB

As the Lions leader on offense, Stafford must absorb some of the blame for Detroit’s 2-6 finish in 2013 after an impressive 5-3 start. His touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio went from 2.66 in the first half of the season to 1.00 in the second half.

A final factor for fantasy football owners should be the change in coaches in Detroit. Jim Caldwell, who replaces Jim Schwartz as head coach, has an excellent reputation with quarterbacks. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi brings the schemes that made the New Orleans Saints explosive on offense.

Stafford is still the Lions’ franchise player, so any playoff hopes they have are riding on their young quarterback’s sixth season being the best year of his career.

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