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April 09, 2017

Ignore the Justin Verlander of 2014 and much of '15. As the Tigers ace told me in podcast form last year, injuries sapped his velocity and messed with his mechanics for a solid year and a half. The Verlander of 2016—the guy who pumped his average fastball velocity back above 94 mph, led the AL in strikeouts and finished second in the league's Cy Young voting—is much closer to the Real McCoy.

His first start of this season was just as overpowering. A full two-thirds of the pitches Verlander fired in his season-opening start against the White Sox last Tuesday were fastballs. Using that thoroughly unsubtle approach, he fanned 10 batters in 6 ⅔ innings, throwing first-pitch strikes more than 73% of the time. At that rate, Kate Upton might not have to rail against BBWAA awards voters seven months from now.

12. Pittsburgh Pirates (3-2, minus-1)

11. Arizona Diamondbacks (6-1, plus-19)

10. Colorado Rockies (5-2, minus-2)

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