Jul. 09, 2016
Detroit Tigers: Champs and Chumps June 2016
It’s hard to believe that the 2016 season is two games away from the half way point. The Detroit Tigers have completed 79 games earning a record of 41-38 – currently 7.5 games back of the Cleveland Indians (48-30) in the American League Central division. As the season goes every team always seems to have one player/pitcher that shines, just as there is a player/pitcher that is less than impressive during any given month. I’ve decided to name my Champs and Chumps of the Detroit Tigers for the month of June.
I’ll start off on the chump side of the rewards.
The winner of chump of the pitching staff goes to…..MARK LOWE!!
Of the 28 games the Tigers played in the month of June Mark Lowe only managed to make only seven appearances; each of which was equally horrendous, losing the trust of manager Brad Ausmus as well as his 8th inning duties. Over the course of those seven appearances Lowe logged only 6.2 innings pitched with an ERA in the outer reaches of the galaxy of 16.20 (12 earned runs). Lower surrendered 15 hits, three of which were homeruns. Batters hit .441/.472/.794 against Lowe in June.
When watching Lowe in his limited appearances, it seems as though something is wrong – he managed only three strikeouts as well. When Lowe was on the mound he would regularly hand his slider, and the slider had little to no bite to it making it easy for batters to tee up and crush at the plate. While I do not have actually statistics of facts, to me, Lowe’s fastball velocity seems to have taken a major dip from the early part of the season. His fastball seems to have no jump at the plate, leaving players salivating at the dish when Lowe enters the game. The lackluster performance of June for Lowe seems to be caused by one of two things; either there is something wrong within his pitching mechanics and they have yet to pinpoint the issue or – the option that I believe is the likelier of the two – Lowe is hiding some sort of injury that is hindering his ability to pitch as he did in March and April.
The winner of chump of the lineup goes to…..JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA!!
Saltalamacchia’s final line of .257/.426/.371 for the month of June is a bit of a mirage. The backup catcher played in 12 games during June and managed a 3-for-3 night on June 30th against the Tampa Bay Rays shooting his batting average north by 101 points. His power stroke seems to have disappeared since April, managing only one homerun and one double. Of his 35 at-bats Saltalamacchia struck out 14 times, good for a Justin Upton-esque strikeout rate of 40%! Saltalamacchia’s one saving grace is the fact that he walked 11 times in June.
While Saltalamacchia is a niece bat to have off of the bench, I feel that his use as a platoon man with James McCann is ideal. The veteran catcher is beyond his years as a starter, he truly is a backup kind of player and a power threat on the bench. While I have awarded Salty the Chump of the Lineup label, it is my belief that Brad Ausmus’ use of the catcher played a significant role in the lack of production in June.
Let’s move on to the brighter side of the awards.
The winner of champ of the pitching staff goes to…..MICHAEL FULMER!!
Fulmer has been ridiculous since his call up; the month of June was no different. Going 3-1 with a microscopic ERA of 0.61 (only two earned runs allowed) while striking out 24 over 29.2 innings in five starts. The rookie has helped solidify the front end of the rotation with Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann, giving Detroit a powerful 1-2-3 punch.
When Fulmer made the move north he came with only a fastball and slider, albeit a devastating slider, a two pitch combination was not enough at the major league level. Throughout his starts Fulmer was able to add and develop a change-up quickly. In adding the third pitch he has been able to keep batters off balance and guessing at the plate. Some of the swings I’ve seen him get on his change-up make the batters look silly.
The youth Fulmer has brought to Detroit seems to have been a catalyst to the team playing better baseball. The only downfall with Fulmer is that he is on an innings limit for the 2016 season. In 2015 the rookie threw a total of 124.2 innings at the minor league level, thus far in 2016 he has thrown 79 innings combined between Triple-A Toledo and Detroit. I’ve read multiple reports that the team would like to stretch him no more than an addition 25% of his innings from last season, which would be somewhere in the 155 innings pitched range. According to ESPN.com Fulmer is projected to make 23 starts and pitch 129.2 innings at the major league level this season, if you combine that with his 15.1 innings from Triple-A he will have thrown for 145 innings by the end of the regular season – leaving only 10 innings for the playoffs if the 25%, 155 innings range is a hard limit.
I believe if Fulmer can continue on the path he is, it is highly likely that he will contend for both the AL Rookie of the Year as well as the AL Cy Young award. It is my hope that the innings limit is not as strict as some have made it out to be. If Detroit were to reach the playoffs, and that is a major if, Fulmer will be a key component of the starting rotation to help Detroit make a run at a World Series title.
The winner of champ for the lineup is…..JOSE IGLESIAS!!
Jose Iglesias had a scorching bat throughout the month of June managing a slash line of .322/.396/.467 over the course of 25 games played. The young shortstop even started the month with an impressive 14 game hit streak – hitting safely in 21 of 25 games in June. Due to the hot bat, Iggy saw his batting average jump 41 points.
Iglesias also showed an uptick in his power stroke, clubbing two homeruns as well as collecting seven doubles and 10 RBI. As a former player in high school and as a fan of the game for my entire life, as a fan watching Iggy struggle through the first two and a half months of the season was rough. However, as the month of June carried on it seemed as though he made some adjustments at the plate. Early on, to me, it seemed as though Iglesias was forcing himself to hit to all parts of the field causing a little unnatural hitch in his swing leading to a low batting average and lack of gap power, however, as the season has continued it seems as though he has gotten away from forcing himself to go the other way and simply taking what he is given at the plate causing the elevation of his batting average and the power stroke to reappear while still spraying the ball to all parts of the field. This new approach has also eliminated the continual bloop singles and led to more hard hit balls.
These are my champs and chumps for the month of June. Stay tuned for more as the season progresses.