Detroit's one-man rotation

Justin Verlander has single-handedly kept the Tigers in playoff contention this season. Rick Osentoski/US Presswire

Baseball isn't tailored to individual exploits. Batting orders and starting rotations reduce the impact any one player can make, and teams have only limited control of when a player's appearances occur.

Nonetheless, at times this season, it has seemed as though Justin Verlander has put the Detroit Tigers on his proverbial back.

The Tigers, who hold a two-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central, have won 68 percent of their games started by Verlander this season. With anyone else but Verlander on the mound, they've been a sub-.500 team.

The big righty hasn't just been excellent, posting a 16-5 record and a 2.30 ERA and trailing only Roy Halladay, Jered Weaver and Cliff Lee among pitchers with 4.5 wins above replacement, he's also been one of the hardest-working men in baseball: His 2,952 total pitches and 118.3 average pitches per start are tops in the majors, and, among regular starters, only he and Weaver have yet to throw 100 pitches or fewer in an outing.

What's more, those long outings haven't seemed to take a toll on his arm: Verlander's four-seamer has averaged 95.4 miles per hour in the ninth inning, even faster than its recorded speed in the first.

Verlander's brilliance has been made even more obvious by the mediocrity of his supporting cast.