2022 Detroit Tigers Midseason Pitching Report

It’s ugly out there. This was supposed to be the arrival year for the next great Detroit Tigers pitching staff. Instead, Tucker Barnhart, Kody Clemens, and Harold Castro each have pitched more innings than Spencer Turnbull, who still is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and, combined, those three position players have pitched nearly as many innings (7.0) as has Matt Manning (8.0), who hasn’t pitched since mid-April due to various injuries. Casey Mize also couldn’t make it out of April, throwing just ten innings before injuries knocked him out and eventually required him to take the Tommy John medicine. Alex Faedo survived all the way to July before discovering he’d inherited one of Matt Kemp‘s hips. Elvin Rodriguez, who came to the Tigers organization as the player to be named later in the Justin Upton trade, has made five scattered starts, because why not? (His rotation-worst 13.19 ERA is why not.) The two veteran workhorses signed in the offseason, Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Pineda, have not been good in the rare moments they’ve been on the field, and while Pineda recently returned (to serve live batting practice), the team literally doesn’t know where Rodriquez is and apparently hasn’t for some time. Tarik Skubal stood amidst the carnage and looked ready to thrive, but he fell apart sometime in mid-June and has not yet commenced the reassembly process. (Skubal’s pitching as I write, so maybe this will serve as a reverse jinx.)

This leaves Beau Brieske as the first-half star of the Detroit rotation, just as everyone predicted. He shouldered more innings than every Tigers starter other than Skubal and, since June 1, he leads those starters in ERA (3.35), FIP (3.64), and fWAR (0.8). All of this of course made today’s injury announcement even more predictable. The twenty-seventh-round draft pick out of CSU-Pueblo will be out until at least August with a sore throwing arm. Considering the 91.2 innings he’s pitched for Detroit and Toledo in about three months nearly match the 106.2 innings he threw in a full season of minor-league ball in 2021 (and far exceed the 20.1 professional innings tossed in 2019), he probably was due for some soreness.

On the other side, Tigers fans have been fawning over the bullpen’s first-half performance. Only the Astros’ and Yankees’ bullpens posted lower ERAs in the first half. That’s neat, especially for a Detroit franchise with a recent history of notable struggles in that department. Maybe don’t look much further than that, though, because there’s good reason to expect the relief corps to collapse down the stretch as well. As a consequence of the severe rotation problems, the Detroit bullpen was highly taxed, and that fatigue, which very possibly will be further exacerbated in the next two weeks by trade departures, should start to manifest itself in terms of in-game results. Independent of that, an expected return to ordinary home-run/fly-ball fluctuations– the gap between the bullpen’s 3.31 FIP and 4.06 xFIP suggests a good deal of good luck in this regard– also would bring this group back to Earth.

Manager A.J. Hinch has the unenviable task of patching together enough functioning arms to cover the roughly 630 innings remaining in this season. His navigation of that obstacle course alone may make this second half worth watching.

MLB.TV.PSA

Readers of this website know that this author is among the last people on Earth who would go out of his way to promote an MLBAM business decision, but here you are, reading a post by me notifying you that MLB.tv is on sale today for a loosely speaking fair-ish price.

Of course, this occasion mostly serves as a reminder of MLB’s callous media-distribution practices. Six years ago, the league settled an antitrust lawsuit attacking things like its telecast blackout policy and centralized MLB.tv product by agreeing to make pricing and offering concessions to fans. Specifically, the seasonal price of the full MLB.tv package at that time would drop from $129.99 to $109.99, and the league would create a new, single-team package at a seasonal price of $84.99. These prices were to remain fixed for five years (i.e., through the 2020 season), subject to annual increases only up to the higher of three percent or the rate of inflation.

Now, that settlement agreement has expired, and MLB is seizing the opportunity to undo its effects. Most obviously, across-the-board pricing is up, doubly insulting as the league simultaneously excludes games from the full MLB.tv package for the benefit of its new partnerships with NBC and Apple.

Perhaps even more underhanded, however, is the soft killing of the single-team MLB.tv package. When first offered, the single-team option was priced at seventy-seven-percent of the full package price, then a twenty-five-dollar difference. MLB now has aggressively closed that gap. At today’s sale pricing, for example, the cost of the single-team option has jumped to eighty-six-percent of the full package price, just a ten-dollar difference. Stated otherwise, someone considering a single-team package can receive a thirty-fold increase in programming for just ten additional dollars. “Even you dummies know that’s a good deal,” fans hear Rob Manfred saying in their heads, even as they wonder why it doesn’t quite feel like a deal. The move to neutralize the single-team package feels like a purely spiteful move designed to achieve the functional undoing of one of the settlement agreement’s most visible achievements without any meaningful cost savings to MLB.

As I have been writing here for years, the message should be a simple one: “Rather than changing the game he wants people to watch . . . Manfred ought to change the way people can watch the game, obviously by making it easier for them to do so.” For how much longer can Manfred continue to squeeze baseball’s fans– including, as a recent example, Padres fans required to purchase yet another streaming service to watch this morning’s Peacock-exclusive game against the Atlanta Braves beginning at 8:35 am San Diego time– remains to be seen.