Inside the Article:
The Detroit Tigers 2023 season has gotten off to a dim start. There were absolutely zero bright spots in their opening series sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. With 158 games left, patience is the main preaching point for this 2023 season. There will be plenty of ups and downs, so hold on and buckle up. However, in the Tigers 7-6, extra-inning victory over the Houston Astros, Rule-5 draft selection, Mason Englert shone brightly.
Why it matters
The Tigers' bullpen was relatively depleted with the departure of Michael Fulmer and Andrew Chafin, and the trades of Gregory Soto and Joe Jimenez. These three were each an integral part of the Tigers' bullpen strength last season, which landed them top-7 according to FanGraphs. While those moves did net offensive prospects, it left the Tigers fledgling in their attempt to hold leads this season. While Alex Lange, Jason Foley, and Jose Cisnero should be able to hold the line, they have been shaky to start the 2023 campaign.
Enter Mason Englert a potentially key figure in the Tigers' bullpen
It's still early, and Englert has only thrown four innings, but they have been pretty good for a kid that had never seen action above AA prior to 2023. He made his debut on Thursday, Opening Day, against the Rays. And, yes, the first batter he faced took him deep. A rude welcome for sure. But, he retired the next three in a row and then stepped up Monday night to throw three scoreless against a tough Astros lineup.
Mason Englert by the numbers
The last thing we should do is overreact to a kid that has four Major League innings, so we won't. But what we can do is parse through the numbers, and look at the actions and body language of the kid and project.
The standard numbers
The standard numbers for Englert look good: four innings, 1 earned run and a 2.25 ERA. He's yet to walk a batter or strikeout a batter. In those four innings, he's also surrendered only three hits, which equates to a 0.75 WHIP. However, the analytics aren't as kind.
The analytics aren't as kind to Englert. While the ERA looks good, his FIP is astronomical: 6.52, which indicates that he's pitched worse than what the standard numbers indicate. He also has a hard-hit rate of 35.7% and his xERA is at 6.90. So there is still some work to do for the kid, and it's something that pitching coach Christ Fetter can work with.
Englert offers a four-pitch mix but is primarily a slider/fastball pitcher. He uses — as of now — the fastball only 25% of the time and features his slider primarily. You'll notice a lot of his location is up with the fastball and middle-down with the slider; naturally, it'd be nice to see that slider buried a bit more and it's something that'll be discussed no doubt.
Making sense of it all
So how do we reconcile a kid that has performed well but the advanced metrics aren't kind to? It comes down to his actions and body language. Maybe even the best thing that happened was the home run he gave up in his first at-bat in the Majors. Why? It can settle him down and seems to have done so by looking at the tape. But more than that, he doesn't look overmatched out there. In Monday's game, they cut away to him in the dugout and he had a look of intensity that would've knocked someone over had they met eyes. That intensity doesn't necessarily translate to better numbers, but it does speak to his makeup. And in a bullpen that is wide open and looking for a lynchpin, he could be it.
The bottom line
We could be looking at something special happening here. Now, we've seen it before with Rule-5 picks who light the world on fire and then come crashing back down to reality. So it will be imperative for the vets on the team and the coaches to help Mason as the league begins to adjust to him. For now though, he is potentially the answer the Tigers were looking for in adding depth to their bullpen and if he continues to do what he did against the Astros, we're here for it.
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