Detroit Tigers: A look back at the bullpen’s performance in 2021

Aug 20, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Tigers shortstop Zack Short (59) celebrates with relief pitcher Gregory Soto (65) and left fielder Willi Castro (9) and second baseman Jonathan Schoop after a win over Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 20, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Tigers shortstop Zack Short (59) celebrates with relief pitcher Gregory Soto (65) and left fielder Willi Castro (9) and second baseman Jonathan Schoop after a win over Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers
Sep 1, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Gregory Soto (65) looks up in celebration after the game against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Tigers LHP Gregory Soto

Soto had one mission and that was to be the closer for the Detroit Tigers. Al Avila and A.J. Hinch agreed he won the job at the end of the season presser and the numbers back it up.

Like every pitcher in the bullpen this season, his journey there wasn’t easy but he picked up an All-Star nod as the long rep for the Tigers.  He finished the season second to Jimenez with a K per 9 of 10.74.

An interesting split that stood out to me was how he pitched against lefties at Comerica Park compared to on the road. They would hit just .103 against Soto in 12 innings of work. Of course, he was effective against right-handers, with 53 strikeouts in 44 innings of work.

His slider produced a run value of -11, which put him among the league leaders in that category. The one stat that seems to be common with a majority of the bullpen was walks and Soto was no stranger to it. He produced a walk rate of 14.5% but that was ignored when he was generating a whiff rate of 51% with his fastball.

Still, overall, Soto did enough to cement himself into a role for next season. The Tigers bullpen produced 42 wins, the most of any Tigers team in the last ten seasons, and their 42 saves is third-best among any Detroit squad in the same timespan. If they can build off this season and cut back the 4.40 walks per nine, the Tigers could be at .500 in a much quicker time frame.

While Avila said they are not looking for bullpen help, I disagree with that idea. If you can find another arm like Jose Cisnero off the scrapheap that can help out, why not?  Between the Rule 5 draft or a potential roster crunch, the Tigers should not stop exploring any opportunities to improve their roster.

Overall, I was stoked to see the bullpen recovered from their early-season troubles. They have a few pieces in place, now it is time if they can take another step forward.

Next. Tigers Rookie Recap: Jake Rogers. dark

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