I'm Officially Very Concerned About The Tigers Bullpen
I know I'm a panicky Pete, but I don't think I'm panicking in this instance. this is really unfortunate. As recently as three weeks ago, I felt pretty darn good about this bullpen. Gregory Soto, Jose Cisnero, Michael Fulmer, and Kyle Funkhouser all pitched good baseball at different points last season. You take those guys, and you add Andrew Chafin, and it seemed like this was going to be a formidable pen. But the baseball gods have never been kind to the Tigers bullpen, and that may be the case to start the 2022 season.
Kyle Funkhouser will start the season on the IL, as will Andrew Chafin. Jose Cisnero is likely to be out a long time. He was just sent to the 60 day IL. A.J. Hinch said yesterday that he was officially "concerned" about Jose Cisnero, and "concerned" is a word that A.J. Hinch rarely ever uses. The only pitcher in the bullpen for the Tigers right now who I am confident in is Gregory Soto, and Gregory Soto is wild, but more often than not, he gets the job done, even if it takes him a while to do it. I like Alex Lange quite a bit, but Alex Lange is still very unproven and did not look particularly sharp in the spring. I have a lot of faith in Michael Folmer when he's healthy, but his velocity has been down in spring training, and he has a pretty lengthy injury history. After that, your best option is maybe Joe Jimenez, who's put up a 6.35 ERA over his last 77 appearances dating back to the beginning of the 2020 Covid year. While he looked solid in the second half last year and pretty darn sharp in spring training, that's not exactly a guy I would rely on to be pitching meaningful innings early in a baseball season.
The bullpen has been the bane of the Tigers existence pretty much my entire lifetime. Even in their hay day, the organization did an abysmal job of building a pen, but this is one of those instances where I don't blame anybody. This team had built up a solid amount of pitching depth. They just lost it due to injuries. The one thing that provides me with hope is that A.J. Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter did an excellent job getting the most out of their young pitchers last season. But the tide has turned a little bit. This team features expectations, and those expectations are going to be challenging to reach if the bullpen isn't at least stable. I think it's entirely possible that in the short term, the Tigers will be able to superglue this thing together and play good baseball in the early stages of the season, but the deeper this thing goes, the greater of a necessity it's going to be for them to get their horses back. They just have to find a way. Please be good this year.