Detroit Tigers: Joe Jiménez has rebounded in 2022

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Jimenez yells after striking out a Tampa Bay Rays batter to end the eighth at Comerica Park. (Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Jimenez yells after striking out a Tampa Bay Rays batter to end the eighth at Comerica Park. (Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports) /

Detroit Tigers reliever Joe Jiménez has turned a page with his 2022 performance.

One aspect of the Detroit Tigers’ performance in 2022 that has shined is the team’s bullpen. They have seen their bullpen come out and shine when called upon. For the most part, the bullpen has been able to get the job done when needed.

A cast of pitchers who have dealt with injuries and trades has still been able to shine through. One of the Detroit Tigers relievers who has really stepped up in 2022 is Joe Jiménez. He was the team’s “closer” after Shane Greene was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2019.

Following the trade, he tried to lock down the closer role but struggled to do so. While he was the team’s all-star representative in 2018 as a part of the crew that led up to Greene, he finally got his chance to close games in 2019.

Things did not exactly go his way as a closer, and the struggle continued as the 2020 season unfolded. When baseball returned from the pandemic, Jiménez was expected to be the team’s closer but never nailed things down, pitching to a 7.15 ERA over just 22.2 innings pitched.

Last year, Jiménez logged 45.1 innings pitched, seeing the struggles continue. He produced a 5.96 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP and struggled to lock things down. But he has come out in 2022 and looked like a much different pitcher.

Jiménez has appeared in 59 games, totaling 54 innings pitched on the year. He has a 3.00 ERA and 1.04 WHIP to his credit. He has punched out 75 opposing hitters and looks like a completely different pitcher than the player that the Tigers are used to seeing take the mound.

This is a good thing; the success is only helping the Tigers build an effective bullpen. It’s only good for the long run if Jiménez can indeed turn the page on the past few years. But what happened? What has caused Jiménez to find this success?

Detroit Tigers reliever Joe Jiménez is a different pitcher in 2022.

I wanted to look deeper into what is changing Jiménez so much from these past few years to the 2022 season. I used the MLB Video Database tools at my disposal to dive into his mechanics from both the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Chris Fetter deserves a cap tip for his work with Jiménez, as he has made minute changes that have been reflected in his performance on the mound. After watching through, it appears that he’s been able to refine his mechanics with slight adjustments to get better extension as he moves down the mound.

For the most part, his delivery from 2021 to 2022 look similar with the way his body moves; I did notice that it feels like he is more controlled with his actions in 2022 than he was last season. He gets less trunk tilt with a quicker arm path in 2022, staying in control and not losing momentum or leaking his front side too much.

It’s not that he had a major problem with this in 2021, but what appears to be some minor mechanical adjustments were enacted to help Jiménez stay in better control of his body. On top of that, he may have been putting in some work in the weight room and working on his mobility to be able to stay balanced and control his movements even better.

From there, I moved on to pitch shape. They all profile similarly visually. It does feel like the fastball has a little bit of later ride to it this year than last year. But after looking at the visual aspects, I decided to sift through Baseball Savant to see what else could be contributing to his performance.

First off, his extension has improved in 2022, which may speak to his work on mobility and minor mechanics adjustments that have helped him move down the mound better. Speaking to his strength addition as well as mechanical adjustments, his velocity averages on his fastball is up from 94.7 to 95.7 in 2022.

Beyond that, getting back to the fastball movement, he has seen a rise in the horizontal movement to his four-seam fastball, with a decrease in vertical drop. To me, it makes sense why it appears his fastball has some late ride to it more than in 2021.

What does all this mean for Joe Jiménez & the Detroit Tigers?

The bottom line is that he’s made changes, and they are working. The Detroit Tigers have been able to get Jiménez to a level where he is having success with his three-pitch mix. The fastball is being thrown harder with a more deceptive break to it.

He’s been able to increase his whiff rate with the pitch and is overall finding ways to get hitters out. His strikeout numbers are up. On top of all of his stats and physical performances, Jiménez has looked more confident on the mound.

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He’s gone out and faced some tough talent, getting the job done when called upon. Something the Tigers have been hoping to get out of him for years now. If he can continue this, he will appear as a valuable piece to the team’s bullpen moving forward.