Since May 7, the Detroit Tigers are 51 and 42—and are believing in themselves. Their young starters, the bullpen, the hitting, and even their defense and stolen bases have improved. All of this is showing signs of a brighter future for this club.
Changes Not Overwhelming
The changes the Tigers have made since April have not been all that dramatic. Yes, to some extent the starting pitching has improved. The development from the new core of young pitchers has been a factor in leading the team toward what might end up being a .500 season. The team’s success has given them the confidence they need to get through the tough passages.
Changes in the Bullpen
The Tigers are believing in themselves and in their bullpen. After being near the bottom in home runs allowed, hits, and blown saves the past few years, pitching coaches Chris Fetter and Juan Nieves have this bullpen on the upswing and being confident in their pitch selections.
Fetter’s work with pitchers has been considered one of the best in baseball this year. He has disciplined the bullpen arms into being more efficient and using fewer pitches. Even Nieves has helped by always talking to the pitchers about what to look for in their pitches.
Better at Holds
The most intriguing statistic: the bullpen has gone from one of the worst of the past four seasons to top-five this season in holds. They are now showing that when a relief pitcher enters the game in a hold situation they can maintain the team’s lead for the next relief pitcher. This sets up the closer for the save.
Closer by Committee
The Tigers closers are believing in themselves as well. José Cisnero has gained confidence in his new role as the closer and it shows. Michael Fulmer has found his control again. Gregory Soto currently has 15 saves and six wins. This triple-threat of Cisnero, Fulmer, and Soto has the team confident with a lead late in the game—and that confidence improves their overall play.
Along with improved pitching, the new Tigers catchers are playing with confidence. Jake Rogers and Eric Haase, both of whom joined the club in mid-May, have put together an impressive show in calling games. Though both are currently on the IL, before their injuries, they had done an excellent job of leading the team’s young pitching staff.
On top of that, Miguel Cabrera, Robbie Grossman, Derek Holland, and Jonathon Schoop lead a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse. These guys know it was a tough time for them back when they came up. They’re willing to take the time and effort to work/talk with players like Akil Baddoo, Willi Castro, Derek Hill, and others. They share what it takes to live on the road, but they also demonstrate it as well.
This Tigers Team is Having Fun
The Tigers are playing as a team. They are believing in themselves and this has made baseball in Detroit come alive again. They are playing upbeat baseball and having fun.
Not only is it seen in the hitting and pitching, but also in excellent base-running. Stolen bases have improved. They are seventh in baseball in stolen bases and third in the league with an 82% success rate. They rank fifth in extra bases “taken chances” (when a runner goes from first to third or scores from second on a single or scores from first on a double).
First time in Years
For the first time in years, fans are enjoying watching and listening to Tigers baseball on TV and radio. They are even heading to Comerica Park. No one is talking about what changes need to be made during the off-season. They are also creeping toward a .500 record, which is phenomenal considering where they were in early May.
If they make it to .500, it would be the first time in five years and it goes a long way in giving the fans what they have wanted for quite some time, optimism.
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