By: Kurt Snyder
As the season has progressed, no one outside of Justin Verlander has been more consistent that Michael Fulmer. For quite a while, games pitched by Fulmer were good bets for victory.
With a 10-4 record heading into the game Saturday night versus the Angels, 2 things were quickly discussed. Fulmer’s candidacy for Rookie of the Year and of course the much talked about innings limit and potential shut down of Fulmer prior to the end of the season.
I have been of the mind that the Tigers will continue to monitor and limit innings as much as possible in order to allow Fulmer to play a major role in the post season rotation if they are able to qualify.
But the last 2 starts have been a struggle for Fulmer. And normally, when a pitcher struggles for a couple of starts, you don’t think much of it, because even successful pitchers run into games where they just don’t have good command or their best stuff.
But I have to wonder in Fulmer’s case if the last 2 starts signal what the Tigers have been concerned about. Is he beginning to tire? Is the tank emptying on Fulmer’s season?
More than likely his next start, whenever that will be, may be very telling about how much more he has left in 2016.
Nothing bothers me more about sports than when officials or umpires put themselves above the game. Fans don’t attend games to see umpires; they are there to see the players. The home team. The home team’s best players.
There is nothing more inconsistent in baseball than the strike zone. With every umpire comes a new strike zone. But players need to learn early on in the game the range the umpire establishes. But the Tigers on Saturday could never adjust or accept that a pitch at or just below their knees was going to be called a strike. But they never did and things got out of hand.
Victor Martinez took things way too far in his disdain for a first pitch strike, which, by the way, was pretty close and not at all worth the fuss Victor made about it. Once he was thrown out of the game, the flood gates opened and the middle of the Tiger order was ravaged by another ejection, of another Martinez, followed by pitching coach Wally Joyner and then Brad, over the course of 4 innings.
Both sides must take blame in these situations. Players and managers must remember the golden rule of baseball. You can’t argue balls and strikes. Umpires have a very short fuse the minute you try.
But on the other side of the coin, umpires need to take into consideration the pennant race, the calendar and the ramifications of ejecting emotionally charged players fighting for their playoff lives. At some point they need to turn their head and ignore chatter from the dugouts and at the plate.
These are very important games from here on out and we can’t have umpires playing major roles in deciding games.
The Tigers have the best record in baseball against sub .500 teams, the likes of which they play plenty within the next month.
The Tigers still play the Twins 7 more times, the White Sox 6 times and finish the season on the road facing an awful Atlanta Braves squad. These are games that will serve to keep the Tigers in the race for a playoff spot.
So it’s in their best interests to take advantage because sprinkled in between are land mines; lots of them. Plenty of games with the Royals and Indians and a series with the Orioles; teams they have not fared well against. If they can solve the puzzle, they will be in.