The Detroit Tigers have seen Alex Lange become one of the reliable parts of their bullpen. In a year where there have not been a lot of positives after things took a dive off the deep end, the team's pitching staff has done its job. Time and time again, the pitchers sent to the mound have got the job done.
One of those pitchers who has been a bright spot is Alex Lange. He has made some serious strides between the summer of 2021 and this summer. His performance in 2022 has been one to be excited about, being an exceptional benefit to the team's bullpen.
The question is how Lange has been able to find the success he's had in 2022. It might be the turtleneck, definitely adds some velocity like the ol' velo pumps some pitchers use. Jokes aside, he has been one of the more reliable arms in the team's bullpen in 2022.
DSN Editorial Director Bob Heyrman recently wrote about experimenting with the team's bullpen. He mentioned Lange is the closer of the future for the Tigers organization. He's onto something. If Lange can continue to operate with this type of success, it might be worth trotting him out there with the game on the line to see what happens. Let's examine what makes Lange so good.
Detroit Tigers Alex Lange has been solid in 2022. Here is why.
In 2022, Alex Lange has appeared in 49 games for the Detroit Tigers, totaling 44 innings pitched. He's pitched to a 3.07 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and punched out 59 hitters overall. This may not tell us any reasons how/why he's having success but shows that Lange has been a model of efficiency.
Looking deeper into it, courtesy of Baseball Savant, it's easy to see that he's refined his pitch mix and been able to use fastball/sinker attack, getting away from the 4-seam fastball he relied on in 2021. Even though he was solid in 2021, he's changed his approach to attacking hitters, which has worked.
He's got a sharp breaking ball that he spins well and is not afraid to throw it in any count. It's become his primary pitch, throwing it 48.9% of the time, with the sinker trailing behind as the second most used pitch at 28.3% on the season. It's a harder breaking ball, averaging 85.4 mph and spinning at 21-2200 RPMs with a sharp bite to it.
He's not afraid to start a batter off with the pitch 0-0 or go the breaker down in the count. The confidence in this pitch is one of those things that has helped him become such a high-level performer. Pair that with his fastball that carries well, getting that sink to it.
The fastball averages 96.2 mph and spins at 2200 RPMs, helping him set up hitters to throw the breaking ball, which, circling back, has a 59.7% whiff rate overall. While that's not the only reason that Lange is having success, it's contributing to it heavily.
After watching him throw, it's easy to see his trust in the curveball and see why it's such a good pitch. He's not afraid to work the lower-third of the zone with the pitch. Looking at his strikeout zone chart and whiff rate zone chart, it shows that he has succeeded in the lower-third and below the zone.
Good sequencing and trust/confidence in his ability to locate the breaking ball has been the main reason. However, if you look at his mechanics from 2021 compared to 2022, it's easy to see a couple of changes. First off, let's drop in some videos, for example. Here's a tweet from his debut in 2021.
Alex Lange picked up his first career strikeout as part of a 1-2-3 inning in his debut.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 10, 2021
And here's a clip from 2022 with a similar camera angle.
Alex Lange, Pretty 96mph Front Door Two Seamer. 😍 pic.twitter.com/WuhlX7emXJ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 5, 2022
Let's break things down for Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Lange.
There are a few things that stood out to me that change the way he has thrown. It might take some of you slowing the video down to see these things, but there are a couple of definite changes. First off, his leg lift is much more controlled this year. In the first video, you'll notice his leg gets really high into the leg lift with a lot less tilt in his hips as he starts to move down the mound.
The second clip from 2022 shows him staying in control of the leg lift, letting his center of mass start to drift forward, and the hip tilts as that happens. Along with the legs, the hands stay lower in the 2022 video, helping him break and start working through his delivery.
The next major difference I noticed was the extension and separation at foot-strike. His front foot gets down, and he gets a lot more open, a lot more hip-shoulder separation in his 2022 motion than in his 2021 delivery. Also, his arm slot has changed.
In 2021 he was more of high three-quarters slot, whereas he has dropped the arm slot a little bit to a three-quarters slot. It's a discernable difference as you slow down the video. He still gets the trunk tilt moving through the delivery, but it's a lower slot in 2022.
Overall, the point is that he's moving down the mound with more efficient actions. He's changed some things in his mechanics and worked on his mobility to make sure he uses his lower half efficiently through the delivery. At the end of the day, it's helping his on-the-field success.
He's been exceptional in 2022; the stats show that, but a deeper look shows why and how Lange has been able to be a dominant pitcher in 2022. The Tigers might have to give him a chance at the closer role if he continues to perform this well.