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Justin Verlander is a candidate for a strong bounce back season in 2015

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander's health, strength and conditioning are back to where they were prior to 2014, and that's potentially big news for fantasy owners.

Verlander had surgery on his core in January of last year, which rendered him unable to throw or participate in his routine strength and conditioning program. When muscles are untrained after a prolonged period of time, they atrophy, leaving the athlete weaker. Verlander said,

I was a twisted mess last season. I couldn't generate the power I needed from my hips and lower body. My strength doesn't come from my arm. But I've got no problem talking about it now because I know it's in the past.

Verlander has re-added 20 lbs of muscle this offseason and is impressing during his throwing regimen. Chris McCosky of The Detroit News wrote,

At this point last year, Verlander was a month removed from core muscle surgery. He was not only unable to throw, he was just starting to get back into his normal conditioning and weight training regimen.

That's all in the past now. Verlander has put on 20 pounds of muscle and he's back to his normal throwing regimen, including an impressive long-toss session with catcher Bryan Holaday on Thursday where he was throwing clothes-line strikes from 120 feet.

Even more significant is that Verlander's core issues negatively impacted his throwing shoulder, which caused Verlander to change his throwing motion. The physical issues with his core and shoulder, combined with the significant loss of muscle, probably explains Verlander's struggles last year.

Verlander's K% and swinging strike% dropped to alarmingly low levels in 2014, significantly lower than they had been in seasons prior.

Season

K%

SwStr%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

FB velo

2014

17.8%

8.7%

4.54

3.74

4.19

93.1

2013

23.5%

10.5%

3.46

3.28

3.67

94.0

2012

25.0%

11.7%

2.64

2.94

3.31

94.7

2011

25.8%

10.2%

2.40

2.99

3.12

95.0

Don't expect vintage "Cy Young! MVP!" Verlander in 2015, but a return to 2013 levels of performance (3.28 FIP, 23.5% K%) seems reasonable.