May 29, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers pitching coachJeff Jones
(51, left) talks to managerBrad Ausmus
(7, right) during the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. The Tigers defeated the Athletics 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
When things are going wrong with teams, fans like to blame the coaching staff. When the Detroit Tigers went through their 10-20 stretch before their current 4 game win streak, the Tigers’ pitching struggled mightily. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Joe Nathan were the pitchers who were most notably struggling and Jeff Jones was starting to get some heat from the fan base. Fans believed that it was Jones’s job to get these three back on track, and Jones delivered.
In the series with the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians, Verlander, Scherzer, and Nathan all pitched well. Nathan pitched in three consecutive game against the Royals and Indians, and looked better than he had in a month. In Thursday’s game against the Royals, Nathan struck out the side in the 9th and got the save. In Friday’s game against the Indians, Nathan surrendered a hit, but no more and struck out two.
In Saturday’s game, Nathan struck out the first two batters then surrendered a base hit on a pitch that would have bounced, a base hit on ground ball that would have been straight to the 3rd baseman if the Tigers were not in “no doubles” depth, and a jam shot the other way to blow the save. Nathan may have blown the save, but the stuff looked good all weekend. Jones had Nathan tweak his arm angle and Nathan responded with a fastball with better movement and velocity and a slider that had a much better bite. What was most noticeable was Nathan’s location. He was spot on with almost all of his pitches on the edge of the plate, not over the heart of it. Nathan looked much more like his early season form, instead of the form of the past month. Jones saw that a tweak in the arm angle would help Nathan with his velocity and movement.
In Max Scherzer’s last 6 starts before Sunday, he had pitched 39.1 innings and given up 30 runs on 53 hits. This included a 3 hit shutout of the Chicago White Sox. Scherzer has a lot of stuff going wrong, but it mostly had to do with location. Scherzer came into Sunday’s start versus the Indians with a plan against a lineup that featured 8 left handed batters. Scherzer featured almost exclusively fastball and changeup. Scherzer carved up the Indians for a final line of 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 8 K. Scherzer’s changeup was his best pitch and he used it very effectively. Scherzer and Jones went into the game with a great game plan that Scherzer executed very well.
Finally, there is the puzzle that is Justin Verlander. Verlander’s struggles have been very well documented. After his last start, Verlander said he and Jones had found a mechanical problem with his delivery that could be fixed. Verlander fixed that problem in his start on Saturday. His final line was 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER (which was changed two 2 ER Sunday due a scoring change), 1 BB, 2 K. Verlander’s average fastball was 95 mph and he topped out at 97. Verlander’s control and movement was great to go along with his increase in velocity. Jones caught and fixed another problem with his pitcher and got results out of it.
When things are going wrong, we like to point fingers at the coaching staff. We should give some credit to the coaching staff when they do things well. Kudos to you, Jeff Jones.