Just when you think Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer can’t get any better, he goes and does something that completely changes your mind. No, I’m not talking about Fulmer’s almost Maddux Thursday afternoon against the Kansas City Royals, when he was through 8 2⁄3 scoreless innings only one batter over the minimum. Although that was a hell of a performance, I’m talking about something else that happened during his start.
It appeared from initial review that Michael Fulmer debuted his curveball today, something we have yet to see from Fulmer since he made his major league debut last April. From the data I’ve gathered, he threw three in total, two of which came with two outs in the ninth inning as shown below.
Are those really slow sliders or are those the first curveballs Fulmer has thrown in the majors? pic.twitter.com/1VPUXSn8wa— Ron W (@FIPmyWHIP) June 29, 2017
From the Statcast data we can tell that he threw three pitches under 80 mph. We can surmise that since his slider is around 89-90 miles per hour and then drops it down to 77 or 78 miles per hour those three times, it must be another breaking ball of some kind. Especially considering he threw a few more sliders in upper-80’s and low 90’s in-between curveballs.
In fact, of all the sliders and change-ups Fulmer has thrown since the start of the 2016 season — 1,626 in total not counting Thursday — the lowest recorded velocity was 83.1 mph change-up according to Statcast. Since he’s never thrown a slider below 84 mph and did so while returning to his normal velocity with the slider in-between, we can confirm this is another breaking ball that Statcast just isn’t reading correctly (we know how often Statcast struggles with pitch recognition).
He threw his first curveball in the eighth inning and then two in the ninth, as mentioned earlier. The one shown in the GIF below at 77 miles per hour was in the ninth inning against Ramon Torres. It’s quite unbelievable how good that curveball looks after throwing it just three times today, and not at all in any of his major league starts before.
Just think of how good Fulmer has been the last season and a half with his four-pitch mix of two-seam and four-seam fastballs with the combination of his slider and change-up, all of which are thrown in the mid 80’s and above. Then you add a nasty, dropping curveball that sits around 77-80 mph and it almost isn’t fair.
It will be exciting to see where Fulmer goes from here with the curve in his next start. Will he continue to mix in the curveball here and there or will it become what his change-up was last season where it surprises everyone including Fulmer himself? Regardless of how he approaches this, it’s hard to imagine we won’t see it at least a little bit, even if it’s just to keep that in the back of the hitters’ minds.