Saupold was a big piece of Detroit’s bullpen last season, pitching in middle relief. The 28-year-old Australian threw 62.2 innings in 45 appearances, often being asked to throw multiple innings.
Saupold is hoping to reprise that same role again this season. In order to do so, he will need to look like the pitcher he was in the first half of 2017. Saupold threw 31.2 innings in the first half of the season and 31 in the second half. His numbers, however, could not have looked different.
Saupold posted a tidy 1.99 ERA with a 20/9 K/BB ratio and a 0.98 WHIP in the first half of the year. He held hitters to a .200 BAA and a .285 OBP. However, things took a dramatic turn for the worst in the second half. Saupold posted an ugly 7.84 ERA with a 24/22 K/BB ratio and a 2.06 WHIP. Opponents hit .316 and posted a .423 OBP.
Saupold admitted to dealing with arm fatigue at the end of the season, and is planning to do less in between pitching sessions this year in order to stay fresh. Arm fatigue is very likely the culprit, as pitchers tend to lose their control when they are tired.
Saupold, who was named by ESPN as the player on the Tigers who doesn’t get talked about enough, will need to demonstrate that he can be a successful reliever for an entire 162 game season if he wants to stick in the bullpen this year.
He has done little to help himself this spring however, throwing 10.1 innings and giving up seven runs, including two home runs. His 9/4 K/BB ratio isn’t bad, so there is hope that he can look like the pitcher he was in the first half of 2017 next season. If so, he will slot back into a middle relief role in the Motor City.