Tigers' questionable signing already showing signs of improvement

Detroit Tigers Photo Day
Detroit Tigers Photo Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The Detroit Tigers' signing of Jack Flaherty has been very maligned by both fans and media alike. I've personally hated the signing from the beginning. I just don't think he has anything left in the tank. Well, it already looks like I might be wrong.

Last season, Flaherty's fastball averaged just 93.2 mph, which was over 1 mph lower than his career season in 2019 (94.5). It was the lowest of his career, and one of many reasons why I thought he was cooked. But Saturday's outing in spring training would suggest a pretty spectacular uptick in velocity.

Flaherty threw 21 pitches in two innings on Saturday against the Pirates, with 11 of them being fastballs. The heater averaged 95.2 mph, topping out at 96.7 mph according to Baseball Savant. He also got two whiffs on the pitch.

It's spring training, so there are a couple of things that could at play here. One, it could simply be adrenaline from being back out on the mound for just the second time in a while. The other is that it could be a hot gun down in Lakeland, which is always a possibility. We saw Wilmer Flores touch 99 mph the other day after averaging under 93 on his fastball in Double-A last season.

Or, it could be real, which is what we obviously hope it is. It would certainly be welcome for both Flaherty and Flores. These are Statcast readings, and they are accurate more often than not.

For Flaherty to add that much velocity to his fastball in one offseason suggests a few things. For starters, he could finally be healthy after dealing with various injuries the past few season, mainly to his shoulder. He also could have made some sort of mechanical adjustment. When the Tigers signed him, Scott Harris said they felt like they could optimize him. Maybe this is the opitimization already coming to fruition.

Either way, this is a good sign for Flaherty heading into the season. The Tigers invested pretty heavily into him, even though he's only on a one-year deal. He needs to be serviceable at the very least. We still need to see what he looks like in the regular season, but this is still a good sign nonetheless.