Detroit Tigers fans should practice patience with left-hander Joey Wentz as science is on his side as it was for Michael Fulmer.
As we head into the off-season, the time to evaluate the current roster needs of the Detroit Tigers will come into question outside of shortstop and more starting pitching. Detroit has already addressed the void for a new VP of player development in Ryan Garko yesterday and perhaps the process has already begun what is down in the Tigers farm system that currently could help Detroit in 2022.
Left-hander Joey Wentz spent this past season working on getting back to the 12.97 K per 9 figure he was after Tommy John surgery. His numbers, if you look on the surface, are a bit rough on the eyes. 0-7 with an ERA of 4.50 and BB per 9 of 5.12 and a WHIP of 1.46.
But anyone should know, win and loss records in the minor leagues are meaningless. If the strikeouts are good (82 strikeouts in 72 innings pitched) while figuring out how to get back into form, then that is a sign of some progress in addition to how his pitches are moving.
Granted, Wentz was shut down at the beginning of September as Detroit was monitoring his innings and coming off surgery, that was the right move. But he is on track to make a contribution in 2022 for the Detroit Tigers.
Command and science
While I am no scientist, there is enough evidence on the Detroit Tigers roster alone to verify that it takes almost two years before you see a pitcher come into form again. Michael Fulmer is an example that stands out.
Last year, Fulmer’s fastball was sitting at 93 MPH, his slider had 4.5 inches of horizontal movement and his curve was sitting at 50.4 inches of drop. Now, he has added another inch to his curve and his fastball is sitting around 96.
While granted, some of these changes to using various pitches more could be from pitching coach Chris Fetter and his new role in the bullpen, which allows him to air out the ball more, his command has looked better.
In an article published in 2019, author Jeremy Beren cited a study that was conducted by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine that showed that curveball movement increased while fastball and slider movement decreased.
Wentz features a fastball, curveball, and a changeup with his change being his best secondary pitch as it is rated at a 55 according to Fangraphs so it will be interesting to see the movement of Wentz’s curve.
Fulmer was throwing in the low 90’s in spring training before everything clicked. If you recall during the 2020 season, after games, despite the results of the start. he said he felt better and it makes sense if you think about it. Command and feel take time. You are still trying to figure out what your elbow can or can’t do.
A great article in Baseball Prospectus ($), showed that based on their data, command returns after their second-year back.
Joey Wentz could be an arm out of the bullpen or a starter in 2022 but based on the small bits of data, he may return to form and helped the Tigers in 2022.