Detroit Tigers: 5 underdog players coming through in 2021

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 26: Eric Haase #13 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a home run against the Minnesota Twins on July 26, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 26: Eric Haase #13 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a home run against the Minnesota Twins on July 26, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers
DETROIT, MI – JULY 17: Kyle Funkhouser #36 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins during game one of a doubleheader at Comerica Park on July 17, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Minnesota 1-0. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /

Kyle Funkhouser

The pitching for the Detroit Tigers has been something to marvel, especially considering the many injuries they have dealt with in the starting rotation. They have lost their two best starters and their next two, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, are on respective innings limits. That makes their bullpen all the more important to keep them into games. Enter Kyle Funkhouser, who is one of the latest products of the Fetter Effect.

I watched Kyle Funkhouser at the alternate training site get continually barreled up in Toledo; struggling to locate and showing inconsistent secondaries. Suddenly, Funkhouser finds himself in a leverage role with the club; a fastball in the upper-90’s and a wipeout slider that has played well across his 42.1 innings in 2021.

3.19 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and 132 ERA+ all suggest Funkhouser’s fortune thus far has not been a product of luck, either. His walk numbers are a smidge high at 4.0 per nine innings, but it’s actually greatly improved from his minor league days.

In 2019 across three levels, Funkhouser averaged 5.7 walks per nine innings and then posted the same walk rate in 2020 across his 13-game, 17-inning season last year too. Funkhouser, though, has been the bridge to the late innings; and with Michael Fulmer now back, this Funkhouser/Fulmer/Cisnero/Soto combination is becoming formidable in the second half of ballgames.