The Detroit Tigers are wasting a good bullpen

Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer (32) delivers a pitch against Cleveland during the eighth inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer (32) delivers a pitch against Cleveland during the eighth inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. /

For the first time in what seems like an eternity, the Detroit Tigers might have a good bullpen.

Tigers’ relievers have an ERA of 1.97 per, which leads all of baseball. But the problem is that everything else has been mediocre at best.

The offense in particular has been incredibly frustrating so far this season. They’ve hit for virtually no power, hitting just 10 home runs so far, which is dead last in the American League according to Baseball Reference.

They also continue to strike out at an alarming rate, with a 24.6% strikeout rate as a team. They also run into a lot of outs on the basepaths and play poor defense.

The starting pitching gets a bit of a pass because the rotation has been wrecked by injuries. Even still, guys like Michael Pineda and Beau Brieske have held their own in limited work.

But the bullpen wasn’t expected to be any good at all this year, especially considering that it too was wrecked by injuries. Jose Cisnero, Kyle Funkhouser, and Andrew Chafin, who has since returned, have all missed significant time already this season due to injury.

And so you have guys like Jacob Barnes, Drew Hutchison, Will Vest, and Rony Garcia that have all stepped up big time in their absence. Barnes, Garcia, and Vest almost certainly wouldn’t have made the Opening Day roster if not for the injuries—Barnes was even cut with about a week to go in spring training, but was brought back four days later after Chafin got hurt, according to a report from’s Jason Beck.

The Tigers have also gotten some really solid innings from guys that have returned from last year’s team, including Joe Jimenez, Alex Lange, and Michael Fulmer.

It’s no secret Jimenez has had his fair share of struggles since making his major league debut in 2017, but he looks much better so far in 2022. He’s striking out almost 12 batters per nine innings, and his fastball velocity has seemingly increased as well. The walks still need to come down, but this is really nice to see from Jimenez.

Lange was seen as a possible breakout pitcher for 2022 by, and while it hasn’t always been pretty, the stuff is definitely there. He’s also striking out almost 12 batters per nine, and when that breaking ball of his is working, he’s lights out. Walks have been a bit of an issue for him as well, so if he can bring those down, he could become one of the elite relievers in baseball.

A.J. Hinch seems to have the most trust in Fulmer, bringing him in in some high leverage situations, and so far, he’s been up to the task. He’s yet to allow a run in 2022 in 9.1 innings of work, and the velocity concerns from spring training appear to have been overblown.

I haven’t yet mentioned closer Gregory Soto, who has become a bit of a controversial figure among Tigers fans. Yes, he can get very wild at times, with four walks already on the season in just seven innings of work.

But he can still be a lethal force on the mound. When he’s on, he’s one of the best closers in the league. On April 21 against the Yankees, Hinch brought him in with one out and the bases loaded. He got out of the jam on just three pitches. Yeah, Soto will be just fine.

It’s still too early to tell whether the early success of the bullpen is sustainable, but either way the Tigers need to get better in every other facet of the game. The bullpen hasn’t had a stretch like this in ages, and they need to stop wasting their performance.

dark. Next. Only one way the Tigers can end their skid