Alex Lange helping contribute to stellar Detroit Tigers bullpen

The Detroit Tigers have underperformed in 2022 collectively, but the team’s bullpen has been much better than many would have expected. Alex Lange is in his second season in the big leagues and has contributed plenty to the team’s stellar bullpen performance.

The success that the Detroit Tigers are getting from their bullpen arms this year, like Lange, leaves room for excitement about what could happen moving forward. The closing duties have been predominantly in the hands of Gregory Soto, but Lange may earn himself a chance or two.

Lange has found his way into 25 games for the Tigers this season, accumulating 23.1 innings pitched where he’s looked exceptional. He’s pitched to a 1.54 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and added 27 strikeouts overall. He’s been able to work efficiently on the mound and get the job done when A.J. Hinch turns to him out of the bullpen.

He’s relied on a three-pitch mix in 2022 that has helped him attack the opposition. His fastball has worked into the upper-90s, averaging 96.2 on the heater, getting up into the 2200-2300 RPM range on his spin rate. He pairs that with a harder curveball that’s got a 55% whiff rate on it in 2022.

Lange has also found success with a changeup that has 16.8 inches of break and features a 48% whiff rate from the opposition. With the success that he is having, it could be time to explore letting him close out games.

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Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Lange earning a chance to close.

The three-pitch mix that he’s relied on has been a big reason he has had so much success in 2022. However,  Lange has also been able to work with pitching coach Fetter and better his pitchability. He’s upped his first-pitch strike percentage to 63%, according to Baseball Savant, showing a 10.9% jump between 2021 and 2022. Fetter really has been a great hire for this Tigers team, Lange is just another example of this.

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If you watch Lange on the mound, the three-pitch mix has looked the part. Lange’s having success in the lower half of the zone, and this is partially due to the way he’s attacked hitters. His fastball plot on Baseball Savant is all over, but there is a concentration of fastballs up in the zone.

Pair that with the nasty curveball low, and it makes for whiffs and success for Lange. Looking at Lange’s zone breakdown on Baseball Savant, it paints a better picture as to why Lange is having success, supporting the idea that he’s having plenty of success low in the zone.

On top of the success with attacking hitters, Lange has done well inducing weak contact and keeping the ball out of the air. He’s pitched to a 60% groundball rate when the opposition does make contact; this is up 15.8% from his rookie campaign in 2021.

The bottom line is that Lange is pitching impeccably well for the Tigers in 2022. The bullpen has been a bright spot on an underperforming team. Hinch continues to trust Soto to go out there and close out ballgames, sometimes resulting in some nerve-wracking outings.

Moving forward, giving Lange a chance to close if the match-up favors him is not a bad idea. He deserves the opportunity. At the end of the day, even if not the closer, he’s looking like he’s going to be a more than a beneficial piece of the Tigers bullpen moving forward.

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