Detroit Tigers: 2021 first half grades. There is progress

Tigers manager AJ Hinch takes out pitcher Casey Mize during the Tigers' 6-2 loss to the Royals on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Comerica Park.Tigers Kc1
Tigers manager AJ Hinch takes out pitcher Casey Mize during the Tigers' 6-2 loss to the Royals on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Comerica Park.Tigers Kc1 /
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Detroit Tigers
Jul 13, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; American League pitcher Gregory Soto of the Detroit Tigers (65) throws against the National League during the fifth inning of the 2021 MLB All Star Game at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Tigers Bullpen Grade: C

Gregory Soto, Jose Cisnero, Michael Fulmer, Kyle Funkhouser are among the standout performances in the Tigers bullpen in the first half of the season. The reality is the Tigers are 24th overall in fWAR for the bullpen but that could be due to the early-season struggles.

While Soto’s All-Star appearance is worthy, you still worry about his walk rate at 13.5%. That could be due to learning to close on the fly but you can like the K per 9 of 10.94. On the right-handed side, Jose Cisnero has been clutch, allowing just 2 earned runs in his last 12 innings of work with an ERA of 1.50. He has 11 holds and four saves on the season so he has been a jack of all trades so far for the Tigers.

Michael Fulmer was explosive for the Tigers in the bullpen before he went down with a neck injury. He has six saves and four holds on the season, as Hinch said he would mix up the roles and he has very effectively. The home runs allowed are an issue but having a healthy Michael Fulmer back in your bullpen can give some relief to Cisnero.

The one pitcher who has stepped up in his absence is Kyle Funkhouser, who was an afterthought after being of the first players sent down to alternate camp. His fastball velocity is up and he has limited allowing barrels to just 2.1%. The secret? He is throwing his sinker more, which allows his slider, which is his best pitch, to be utilized more. Then, when possible, he will throw his fastball up in the zone to generate strikeouts.

According to Baseball Savant, he has thrown that pitch 99 times this season and has generated 11 strikeouts and teams are batting just .107 against it, compared to last season in which when he threw it 92 times, only generated two strikeouts and teams hit .333 and he was only generating a whiff % of 12.8, compared to this season, where he is generating that same pitch at 23.5%.

Overall, you would like to see more consistency from lefties Tyler Alexander and Daniel Norris but Hinch has been able to pick and choose when to use them most effectively although, it can be an adventure.

While Joe Jimenez was getting into low leverage situations to boost his confidence, it seemed to work for a while but the walks are still an issue. Detroit really does not have a viable solution down in the minors, outside of riding the hot hand. Alex Lange still has command issues and both Buck Farmer and Derek Holland have struggled to hold leads.