Detroit Tigers: Pitcher of the Week (2): Justin Wilson

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Apr 12, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Justin Wilson (38) pitches in the sixth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Justin Wilson (38) pitches in the sixth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Justin Wilson continued an excellent debut season with the team by stringing together three solid bullpen outings.

Detroit Tigers relief pitching was once an area of concern for the team. Under the previous regime, which was led by Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers were never quite able to find the right mix of relievers. In fact, you could make the case that Detroit couldn’t really find the right relievers period.

However, new general manager Al Avila made it a priority to fix the team’s Achilles heel in his first winter in charge.

Francisco Rodriguez was brought in via trade to hold down the ninth, while Mark Lowe was signed as a free agent to pitch the eighth inning. Despite some minor speed bumps to begin the year, both looked to have settled in. They should be much more consistent moving forward.

While both Rodriguez and Lowe have both been invaluable to the Detroit bullpen, the best bullpen-related move Avila may have made was to trade for Justin Wilson. Acquired for a pair of mid-level pitching prospects, Wilson has been slotted in as the team’s seventh inning option.

To put it very plainly, he’s thrived. Overall, he’s appeared in six games, throwing 5.1 innings while only allowing three hits and a walk. The former Yankee has yet to allow a run, and has racked up eight strikeouts so far. With his ability to get both right-handed and left-handed batters out—not to mention a blazing fastball and some nasty off-speed pitches—Wilson may be the best reliever the Tigers have had in years.

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The 28-year-old was especially dominant last week. Appearing in three games, he totaled 2.1 innings pitched, allowed just one hit and struck out three. Wilson also picked up a hold in each game that he appeared in. This has become somewhat commonplace for the reliever, who is tied with four other pitchers for the Major-League lead in holds with five.

One key reason Wilson is so dominant is because he consistently pounds the strike zone, and works through innings quickly. That combination is about as effective of a rally killer that you’ll find. An impressive 71% of the left-hander’s pitches went for strikes. He only needed 24 pitches to get through 2.1 innings of work last week.

In addition to helping Wilson get hitters out, this will also help him stay fresh down the stretch. At this point, long and laborious innings don’t seem like they’ll be a part of the reliever’s future.

As of now, Wilson has arguably been the Detroit Tigers best offseason addition. This only speaks to the player’s success so far as fellow newcomers Jordan Zimmermann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have thrived. Zimmermann has yet to allow a run in two starts while Saltalamacchia leads the team in RBI with 11 in only seven games played.

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The news gets even better, as Wilson isn’t even eligible for free agency until 2019. Detroit Tigers’ fans will be seeing this kind of relief pitching from the lefty for years to come.

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