By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
Today’s topic focuses on one of the Tigers’ greatest success stories of the year; the emergence of Michael Fulmer. As such a valuable commodity the Tigers will have some decisions to make in regards to Fulmer.
Holly and Kurt have not shared their answers to this Thursday question, but both can’t wait to see what the other has to say.
What’s your take on the innings limits issue for Michael Fulmer? Do you think the Tigers will handle it well?
Let’s assume, first of all, that the unreal number of injuries the Tigers have experienced don’t totally dash any chances the Tigers have of earning a playoff spot because that could be a game-changer.
But it’s interesting that the Tigers have 2 different statements, both recent, on Michael Fulmer’s innings limits – an official team stance issued by the Front Office states that Fulmer will only be allowed to go over last year’s total innings by a maximum of 30% and the second statement, by Brad, which doesn’t use any parameters and only refers to trying to limit his innings.
And maybe it was done on purpose. I lived in the eye of the firestorm several years ago that involved Stephen Strasburg and his innings limitations which prevented him from pitching in the playoffs. It was not at all pretty and became a PR nightmare that was repeated a year later with the Mets and Matt Harvey. So potentially, the Tigers are trying to blur the lines with Brad’s vague guidelines.
But if you go with the official statement, Fulmer has only 38 more innings available in which to pitch – for the entire year and post-season, if that happens. Conservatively, if you figure 7 innings per game, he’s got a mere 5.5 games left when technically he’s needed for a full 8 games just to get through September. He would need to be skipped 3 times just to max out the regular season.
It sounds doable except when you factor in the continuing saga of Jordan Zimmermann on the DL – and also Pelfrey. If you’ve got two starters on the DL, how is it possible to allow another starter to skip a turn?
But I’m stymied over Brad’s abrupt departure from his statement by then allowing him in the next breath to pitch a complete game – a blowout contest in which he should have been removed earlier. A couple of innings here, a couple of innings there and they add up in allowing him to pitch longer into the season. Ausmus later said his decision to allow Fulmer to finish the game was based, in part, because he had tons of friends and family at the ballpark.
If this rationale – placing popularity as a priority over getting into the playoffs – is how Brad operates, then I think the Tigers are in for an eventual hailstorm of outrage if he’s unable to pitch when it really counts.
The story becomes even more complicated by the Tigers and local media ignoring the elephant in the room. Michael is young and appears strong, but he’s had THREE surgeries on his pitching arm! Bones chips in the elbow and a torn meniscus that became torn again.
The only thing worse than not seeing him pitch at the end of the year is seeing such a tremendous talent being overused and a career being cut short as a result.
I was shocked when Fulmer came out for the ninth in his last start. It was a puzzling decision for a team that needs to take full advantage of chances to limit innings. This was an opportunity missed and makes you wonder what their intentions are.
Have they already made a decision? Will they be shutting him down in a few weeks? The complete game makes you wonder.
In the end, this may end up being a very easy decision for the Tigers. With another game lost in the standings, the Tigers won’t have much of an issue limiting Fulmer’s innings from now until the end of the season.
However, if somehow the team manages to get themselves back into the mix, they probably won’t do it without Michael Fulmer. The goal is the playoffs and the Tigers will need their best players to get there, assuming they all come back from injury in time to make a run. Fulmer, being probably the Tigers best starter at this point in the season is in a precarious position.
But there is no waiting on next year for this team. It’s never been an option. So I see the Tigers toeing the line with Fulmer, trying to conserve his innings without having to shut him down. He’s too important to any run they make.
It’s really anyone’s opinion on which direction is the best way to head. Conservatively, they should begin reducing his workload and soon. But what’s the goal? If it’s to get into the playoffs and make a run, Fulmer is a piece that has to be available.
But if they really want him around to see the end of the season, the feel good complete game stuff will have to be a little bit more thought out.
Hopefully things turn around so there is an actual decision to be made at the end of September.