| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Tigers’ Michael Fulmer describes ’embarrassing’ 2020 season
Detroit Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer speaks Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, about preparing to work with new pitching coach Chris Fetter.
Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
Detroit Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris doesn’t want to disrespect his other previous pitching coaches over his seven-year MLB journey. But Chris Fetter, two months after his hire, is already making a strong case for the most influential.
On Wednesday, Fetter sent Norris an email.
It took the 27-year-old 15 minutes to read through the “ideas, numbers and everything to help me get better,” Norris told the Free Press on Thursday. “I’ve never had a pitching coach this hands-on this quick. He was just dreaming of all the pitchers and how to make them better. He’s psyched. That’s really, really cool.”
This email was specifically written for Norris. Fellow pitchers are getting the same type of message: individualized analytics, bullpen points, notes on how to improve and much more from their new pitching coach.
Last year, Norris registered a 3.25 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 27⅔ innings across 14 appearances (one start). After making his season debut as a starter, the Tigers moved him to the bullpen, where he posted a dominant 2.77 ERA the rest of the way.
“Some things in my delivery that could be quick fixes,” Norris said about Fetter’s email. “I kind of crossfire a little bit, and that can cause a gyro on the ball. Sometimes when I’m going away to a righty, it might cut middle. And that’s where the efficiency is lower than normal. To improve that, maybe land more linear. These are all ideas he had in that email, and I’m just like, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ I’m excited to apply it all.”
It’s unclear how the Tigers will use Norris in 2021. He is no stranger to starting games, but he was electric out of the bullpen. General manager Al Avila has tossed around the idea of implementing a six-man rotation.
During his career, Norris, 27, has started 83 of his 111 games.
“Yeah, my goal is to start again,” Norris said. “I’m training as a starter. It’s always easier to get built up and back off. It would be tough to train as a bullpen guy and need to start. I’ll be ready for whatever.”
Norris began his throwing program on Nov. 17, two months earlier than his normal regimen. He wanted to keep his arm moving. In the early stages, the lefty focused solely on feeling out his mechanics. He has upped his velocity in recent weeks and pitched off the mound seven times.
“You can throttle the intensity and take care of yourself,” Norris said. “Especially as you get older in your career, you start understanding your body and how you respond and what you wake up feeling like. And I feel really good right now.”
Along with sending analytically driven emails, Fetter is asking his peers and co-workers about past successes, failures and injuries to better evaluate the pitching staff. He reached out to the Tigers’ trainers about Norris’ groin surgery in the 2018 season. That year, Norris only pitched 44⅓ innings in the majors and made rehabilitation starts in the minors.
“Just beyond incredible to me that he is willing to go that far,” Norris said. “I’m blown away.”
Norris admits he doesn’t look at analytics much. It’s not because he doesn’t care. Rather, he doesn’t fully understand. Sure, he comprehends the concept of spin rate and can acknowledge when his efficiency is low, but he grew up being told to throw strikes rather than focus on in-depth numbers.
Since then, the game has changed.
And Norris is willing to adjust, with Fetter’s help.
“I got the email (Wednesday) and worked on it (Thursday) in my throwing program,” Norris said. “I know when I cut a ball. I see it, and I feel it, but there are ways to manipulate it and fix it instead of just trial and error. It’s been really cool to have some input from him, even from afar.”