Things have been looking up again in the Motor City since the Tigers snapped a brutal 20-game losing streak to the Cleveland Indians — much less, a nine-game losing streak overall — on August 21, with the good guys taking two of three from the Tribe before coming home and splitting the first two of a three game set with the Chicago Cubs.
The one game the Tigers have manage to seize from the Cubbies thus far was earned by sophomore stud Spencer Turnbull, who turned in a scoreless, three-hit effort over 5 2⁄3 innings on Monday night en route to a 7-1 victory. But the red-headed right-hander has been trending upwards for some time now — despite a couple of stumbles his previous two starts before Monday night — and his success has been a boon for the boys in the Olde English D.
Red Bull gives the Tigers wings
With Matthew Boyd struggling to find his footing, Michael Fulmer still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, Daniel Norris still looking to get it goin’, and the two rookies Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal simply getting their feet wet, Turnbull has emerged as the de facto Tigers ace starter nearly halfway through the 60-game season. While the righty can certainly pump some gas with his fastball at 98 mph, he has begun to discover better command over his pitches, which is likely attributed to his new mantra: “Less is more.” He offered the following explanation for how it has worked for him.
“Gonna be my mantra for the rest of my life. As soon as I slow down, stay within my delivery and don’t try to muscle up on everything, I’m able to stay closed longer, my arm quickens up, the ball comes out better.
The results on Monday night? He threw his four-seamer 53.6 percent of the time, mixing in his sinker (23.7 percent), his slider (13.4 percent) and his change (6.2 percent) — with a trio of curveballs thrown in for good measure — demonstrating a five-pitch arsenal that was rather effective against the Cubs’ lineup.
Manager Ron Gardenhire seems to believe in Spencer as well.
“His stuff is really good. If he can just maintain the mental part of it, not overthink things and watch the catcher put down the sign (with) no shaking, just throw the ball where the catcher wants it — that’s when he’s the best.”
The stat line on the Bull this season is a 3-2 record with a 2.97 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and a 3.42 FIP, with 22 hits and 18 walks allowed against 26 strikeouts in 30 1⁄3 innings. That’s not too shabby for a guy most had predicted to be a bullpen piece at best not too long ago.
Getting the Funk out
Speaking of farmhand pitchers who have been bearing fruit this season, Kyle Funkhouser has also taken a significant step forward — this time avoiding that crack in the sidewalk — and finding a role in a resurgent Tigers bullpen. His performance so far has earned him innings, but there is plenty more for him to do: specifically, refine his pitch mix.
The Detroit Free Press takes a look at the blossoming right-hander and how he has remained afloat in the big leagues. Funkhouser credits pitching coach Rick Anderson and bullpen coach Jeff Pico for helping him alter his mechanics and find more velocity — previously topping out in the mid 90s, he touched 97 mph in Chicago on August 20. Additionally, he has learned more on the “art of pitching.”
“More consistency with being able to kind of tunnel (the) fastball (and) slider, so the slider looks like a fastball for 40-50 feet, as long as possible,. Being able to get more chases down in the zone or out of the zone.
“If you can spot that fastball right where the slider is going to come out of, you’re going to get more swings and misses.”
Thanks to the Funk’s newfound skills and a sudden premium on middle relief this season, the 26-year-old former first-rounder will likely get every opportunity to prove his mettle. If he can stay on track and continue to improve, he could very well be a valuable piece of the Tigers’ pitching staff over the next few years.
Bulls on Paredes
It has been three years since Isaac Paredes was acquired along with Jeimer Candelario and some cash in exchange for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, and the trade may have finally begun paying its true dividends.
Now 21 years old and getting his first taste of major league coffee, Paredes has burst onto the scene for the Tigers, batting .318 with a .423 OBP and a .923 OPS — good enough for a 151 OPS+ — with a homer, a double, six RBIs and four walks in seven games played this season. Small sample size aside, his start has been extremely encouraging.
Isaac Paredes: 50-pitch weekend pic.twitter.com/SBc0k0msYY— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrown0914) August 24, 2020
Cody Stavenhagen over at The Athletic takes a look at the promising prospect’s tumultuous year leading up to his major league debut, including a shoulder injury in spring training and the positive COVID-19 test that put him behind schedule for his big league arrival. Paredes gave his thoughts on his time in Toledo before the call-up.
“I wasn’t thinking about getting called. I just felt that the doors were shut down for me this year because of the COVID and also because of spring training … I knew that this COVID thing, it was gonna make this year pretty hard for me.”
Once he got the call-up, however, there was no looking back from there. In his major league debut, his first base hit was a two-RBI single to keep the Tigers in the game at the time. He then hit a grand slam for his first MLB home run four days later to power Detroit to its first victory against Cleveland in 21 tries. To say that Paredes has arrived on the scene in style is an understatement. Hopefully, he can keep this going because this team is in dire need of offensive support.
Around the horn
FanGraphs Arcade: for those of you who grew up playing 8-bit video games, this is right up your alley. Why John Sickels left baseball writing, in his own words (caution: unpleasant content). With no fans in the stands at Chase Field, it’s the groundskeepers who have embraced the role of making noise to support the D-backs at home games. MLB Prospect Watch: 50-plus prospects who could be on the move at 2020 trade deadline. Fans are allowed at an MLB team’s alternate site, but why aren’t scouts? What is a minor league baseball team worth? It’s complicated. Lucas Giolito threw a no-hitter only two years after being the worst pitcher in baseball.