The Detroit Tigers sent Michael Fulmer up the hill Thursday afternoon to face the Toronto Blue Jays. Certainly the Tigers Brain Confidence was hoping to see some positive results as they build a rotation. However, Fulmer flashed much of the 2020 form of plumbing the depths of baseball with an ugly 8.78 ERA.
Ultimately, it’s just a meaningless spring training outing that has a starter tagged and that counts very little. For those watching Michael Fulmer, however, the “Worry-ometer” will be in the red. There has been little to feel good about for the far right since injuries severely derailed him in 2018.
The Blue Jays jumped Fulmer for three homers courtesy of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer and Alejandro Kirk. Fulmer made only four turns and missed his 55-pitch mishap at Dunedin. One possible bright spot was the sight of Fulmer, who found a speed that was missing on his comeback, with a few cannon values around 95 mph.
Where are the Detroit Tigers headed from here?
Despite the headline above, it’s still too early to believe that Fulmer will be installing plumbing on a full-time basis in his off-season calling as a plumbing professional.
The Tigers would still love to see him release the drain … oh, stop it! … and find the shape of the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year and 2017 All-Star.
It’s just that the 2017 season is starting to look very far away as we are sitting in the spring of 2021 and don’t see any results on the hill for Fulmer as he’s been through multiple injuries and surgeries including a number of injuries to his elbow, forearm , defends. Oblique muscle and his knee. Many of the Mercedes purchases made by orthopedic surgeons were partially subsidized by Fulmer’s illnesses.
Does Fulmer have a way forward? Can he regain some of the form he once showed in Detroit? Or is he a victim of “Jordan Zimmermann Syndrome on the Early Set”?
The real way forward begins with forgetting 2020 and the 8.68 ERA. This room was more than happy to largely pass several players who struggled during the weird COVID infested season. Fulmer was also in the very early stages of Tommy John’s recovery, and there are some successes with pitchers who do far better in the second year after surgery.
Despite today’s Spring Bomb Festival at Fulmer’s expense, he’s still under team control until 2023 and has a pedigree that can’t just be thrown on the curb, especially when the team is at the bottom of the pile. The Tigers’ inability to fight likely in the near future benefits Fulmer. The Tigers can give him several opportunities to find a role on the baton without compromising real hopes of a playoff run.
Fulmer actually threw a couple of pitches to 95 today. Lost speed was an issue in ’20 when Fulmer lost over 3.5 mph on its heater from its standards in ’17 / ’18. When enough warmth comes back, at least one small hurdle has been overcome. But there is much more to be feared. The three things that were capitulated today complement the clubbing that Fulmer did with long balls in the 1920s. Balls flew out against him and it wasn’t just a losing streak because fence scrapers barely found the seats. Fulmer needs to regain command in the strike zone … something not seen in the middle cut the fastball at 150 km / h and yelled “Wallop me, please” to Vlad Jr. on Thursday.
Here all Detroit Tigers fans can hope that new pitching coach Chris Fetter has some success in reviving Fulmer. To be honest, every time a new pitching trainer is brought on board, it’s easy to think about how this new pitching shaman miraculously has the ability to turn dog poop into filet mignon across the board. It’s unrealistic to think that Fetter will fix anyone who needs to be fixed. Some mountains are too high to climb. Fulmer appears to be slipping into oblivion in some ways, but maybe he’s the type Fetter beats gold on the assumption that Fulmer will physically stand up to it.
Fetter is known for emphasizing a pitcher’s strengths rather than reinforcing weaknesses, and developing individual plans for each of his guys. That makes sense. The needs of Tarik Skubal do not necessarily intersect with the needs of Fulmer or Spencer Turnbull. You shouldn’t train right away.
Hope Springs Eternal
The ZiPS projection system predicts Fulmer will throw about 106 innings with an ERA of 4.67 in 22 starts this season. Given the way the past few years have gone, that probably wouldn’t be a bad result, although it is certain that Fulmer expects more of himself.
The things Fulmer has to look for in 21 seem to be primarily “good health”. He has to leave the injury nightmare of the last four years behind.
The increase in speed must continue when Fulmer reinvents himself under Fetter’s care. The heavy, well-placed heater was what set up the wipeout slider in the Fulmer Glory minutes in ’16 / ’17. As his fastball command in the zone improves, the sky-high homer rate drops sharply. Fulmer will then have a chance and not be left behind on so many points.
Fulmer has only given us a few moments for optimism. But on a day when the Tigers are currently not worried about victory, Fulmer is not being lavishly compensated. Since he’s cheap and he’s already there and is someone who was once mistaken for a rising ace, it pays off if the Tigers give him more chances until they have a staff to compete with for a berth in October .
The story of Michael Fulmer should interest the Tigers in insulting the young guns with which they are just building a new staff. Breaking jugs … plain and simple. You can’t rely on many of them to be IL-resistant, as Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander once were. The Tigers need to get Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Skubal, and others up and running within the next year before too many critical young pitching components may fail and add talent in the next off-season. This is when they have hopes of fighting before 2025.
Will Fulmer be a part of this next competitor? It looks thin now and few would bet on it. But things can change. He is a smart guy who gives off the smell that he is going to work and try to adapt in order to find a way to rebirth. Maybe Fetter and AJ Hinch are the guides you need. Fulmer is not yet a full-time plumber.