Detroit Tigers: Will southpaw Tyler Alexander be the same pitcher in 2021?

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers are hoping that they can get another strong year out of relief pitcher Tyler Alexander. In 2020, it looked like Alexander had really figured things out for the pitching staff and was going to be a shutdown long reliever and possibly even start some games. The question is if this is really the case or not.

Last August-early on in the Detroit Tigers season, Alexander turned some heads during a match-up against the Cincinnati Reds. Alexander tossed 3.2 scoreless innings against the Reds after coming into the game in relief.

The “magic” of Alexander’s outing came from him striking out ten of the 12 batters he faced. He allowed no hits and issued one free pass to Reds hitters. His outing consisted of 55 pitches where he got 38 strike calls, with ten of those being swings and misses.

According to Fangraphs latest depth chart of the Tigers, Alexander is slated to be the organization’s long-reliever. Both he and Daniel Norris are left-handed pitchers who will spend time being big-league long relievers during the 2021 season.

After such a strong showing in 2020, Tyler Alexander is looking for the same results for the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

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Overall in 2020, Alexander pitched in 14 games, totaling 36.1 innings pitched where he had a 3.96 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP, and had 34 strikeouts while walking nine opposing hitters.

He showed improvements from his 2019 season, where his ERA was 4.86, and his WHIP was 1.40 for the Tigers.

Early projections available on Fangraphs are not looking to be so kind to Alexander. All of them predicting a regression back to the pitcher he was in 2019 for the Tigers organization.

However, Alexander is looking to prove he can be a serviceable arm for manager A.J. Hinch to call upon out of the bullpen when needed.

His stats are a little deceiving; while he did improve from 2019 to  2020, his WAR rating suffered a downgrade. In 2019 it was at 1.0, and then in 2020, he posted a -0.1 WAR. Various 2021 projections have Alexander posting a WAR of 0.1, 0.3, 1.0 based on the source of the projection.

In terms of the statcast stats, Alexander saw a drop in hard-hit balls allowed. In 2019 his hard-hit percentage was 40.8%, but he was able to knock it down to 37.1% in 2020—a modest decrease between the two seasons for Alexander.

While the projections are not looking great, the question about his deceiving stats could mean a couple of different things. Partially meaning that Alexander’s hope for another solid season in 2021 could come to a screeching halt.

One possibility is that Alexander may have turned a corner, and the projections are not reflecting this. He could be ready to have a nice breakout performance, proving he can be one of the Tigers’ reliable bullpen arms in 2021.

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The second and less than flattering possibility is that 2020 was a fluke season for Alexander; he got lucky and settled in nicely during the 60-game sprint. That being said, his performance will regress, and he will be back to being just another southpaw for Hinch to call upon from the bullpen.