Detroit Tigers: The re-emergence of reliever Joe Jimenez

Detroit Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning at Comerica Park in Detroit, Sunday, July 4, 2021.Tigers
Detroit Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning at Comerica Park in Detroit, Sunday, July 4, 2021.Tigers /
facebooktwitterreddit

As we celebrate the newest All-Star Gregory Soto, let’s take a look at the last Detroit Tigers reliever All-Star, Joe Jimenez, who has found his groove again.

When you look at the career of Detroit Tigers right-hander Joe Jimenez, you can describe it as a rollercoaster, similar to former Tigers closer Todd Jones.

Many Tigers fans, myself included, thought that Jimenez did not have it anymore after starting the season in Toledo in the alternate camp. Then we saw the two appearances in Oakland, which seem like a lifetime ago in April in which he gave up seven walks in 1.2 innings of work.

So what changed exactly for Jimenez to be an effective reliever? As the Greek philosopher, Plato once said “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

With injuries to the starting rotation and the Tigers’ light on pitching depth in the minors, you can take a look at what perhaps pitching coach Chris Fetter has done to Jimenez’s game.  His fastball velocity and spin have been always in the higher percentages according to Baseball Savant. Unless you are a Hall of Famer like Mariano Rivera with his cut fastball, it is hard to survive on just one pitch.

His changeup, which was his weakest pitch by percentages, has now become a weapon to complement his slider.  His changeup has been thrown at 14.2% of the time, the highest in his career.

As a result, his fastball, which was getting hit around .280 clip with three home runs and an exit velocity of 91.9 in 2020, so far this season, he has not allowed a home run with the fastball and has limited getting barred up.  In 2021 so far, batters are hitting just .118 against it and slugging at a .147 clip.

His slider usage is about the same for his career but the spin on both his fastball and slider are slightly up, which has limited hard contact from one of the worst in 2020 at 50% to just 28.6%, a career-low for him so far. His K rate is back up to 28%.

Props to Manager A.J. Hinch, who for the entire month of May, put him in low leverage situations to build up his confidence again. Recently in his last five innings of work against Houston, Cleveland, and the White Sox, he has struck out eight, allowed just one hit and just one walk.

Granted, his ERA overall may be one to raise eyebrows but for the month of June, he posted a 3.18 ERA. He started with a high ERA but once Jimenez continues to get more innings, you should see that overall number go down.

The Chris Fetter effect? It could be but one thing is certain. A.J Hinch has shown one true characteristic so far and that is how to manage the bullpen to a degree here in Detroit we have not seen in quite some time. Jimenez may not be the “closer of the future” but he is an effective weapon so far out of the bullpen for Detroit and that’s all you can ask for.

Next. Gregory Soto rises to an All-Star. dark

facebooktwitterreddit