Detroit Tigers 2016 Season Review: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
One of the surprise Detroit Tigers signings of the 2016 season was the catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Prior to his signing, the Detroit Tigers had a pair of capable pitchers in James McCann and Bryan Holaday. His signing created some competition between the three pitchers that resulted in Holaday having a shockingly good spring training season in Lakeland.
Despite his eye-catching stats with the Tigers during spring training, the team traded Holaday to the Rangers and put Salty in the backup spot.
Signing Saltalamacchia turned out to be a good move. He was an inexpensive addition to the team and he provided some clutch offense – when his bat made contact with the ball. His numbers were less-than-stellar; he ended the season with a slash of .171/.284/.346 and an OPS of .630.
Adored by the Fans
Despite his ugly numbers, Saltalamacchia quickly became a fan favorite in Detroit. Fans love a good home run hitter. Salty proved his value early by hitting a home run in the season-opening game against his former team, the Miami Marlins. (His first home run of the season was against Jose Fernandez.)
Then, the switch-hitting catcher kept hitting home runs; 6 of them in his first 12 games. But, he also managed to strike out in every single game in April.
Those strikeouts seemed to be a sign of what was to come. Once May rolled around, Salty’s batting average and home run numbers dropped. By the time May was over, his batting average dropped below .200 and it hovered right around that spot for the remainder of the season.
However low his batting average was, Salty did manage to have a few memorable moments with the team. One was his second home run of the season. He hit a grand slam against Arquimedes Caminero with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
His other clutch home run was the most memorable of the year. On July 17, the Tigers were tied with the Kansas City Royals. Tyler Collins had just managed to get on base against Joakim Soria. Salty came to the plate and hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. He rounded the bases with his finger in the air.
Saltalamacchia hit 3 of his 12 home runs against the Kansas City Royals, with two of them off of Danny Duffy. He also hit two home runs against the Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, and the Miami Marlins.
Because of his few clutch moments, Saltalamacchia was often used as a pinch hitter in late innings. Unfortunately, most of them did not pan out. In his 18 pinch-hit opportunities, he hit one home run. In all the rest he either walked or struck out. But, when he did approach the plate in the late innings, the crowd at Comerica Park cheered as if he was the best clutch hitter on the planet.
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Defensively, Salty spent the majority of his time behind the plate, but he also played a few games at first base. He finished the season with fielding percentages of .994 in both spots. He committed a total of five errors all season. Even though the Tigers prefer to not create pitcher-catcher teams, Salty did catch for Matt Boyd. Pairing the young pitcher with the veteran catcher made sense, so Brad Ausmus continued to do what worked.
Salty did work with other pitchers, but not as successfully as he did with Boyd. In fact, during the September 17 game against the Cleveland Indians, it seemed like Justin Verlander and Salty could not get on the same page. Verlander waved off several of the pitches that Salty called.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is now a free agent. Since his $7 million contract will no longer be paid for by the Marlins, it is highly unlikely that the Tigers will resign him, especially after he ended the season with the .171 batting average and 104 strikeouts.
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