Reese Olson Has Emerged as a Rotation Fixture for the Tigers

Reese Olson looks like a rotation fixture for the Detroit Tigers, building on a strong rookie season with an even better sophmore campaign.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 01: Reese Olson #45 of the Detroit Tigers throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 01, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

The Detroit Tigers have been short on a lot of ends this year but one of their biggest strong suits is pitching. Cy Young candidate Tarik Skubal and free agency acquisition Jack Flaherty have anchored this starting rotation, but the emergence of Resse Olson has elevated this rotation to a top 10 unit in the MLB.

Despite Olson’s 3-8 record, he’s been an effective innings-eater that can and will shut down an offense when on the hill.

Olson’s Numbers

Olson has been a workhorse for the Tigers this year. Compared to last year, he’s already racked almost the same amount of innings for the club in four less games and has improved in the important stats when it comes to comparing his rookie year to his sophomore.

His ERA has dropped over 70 points from a 3.99 in 2023 to a 3.22 in 2024. He’s limiting HR’s better, cutting his barrel rate in half, and has improved his whiff and chase rate this season.

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To better illustrate how dominant Olson has been when on the bump, you don’t have to look far. His month of May was dominant. In five starts, Olson was 1-1 with a staggering ERA of just 0.64 while punching 21 tickets in 28 innings.

As a Major League Starting Pitcher, Reese Olson had two earned runs all month.

Two. Earned. Runs.

And it’s not like this month was easy.

It started with the red hot Yankees where he twirled five innings of two-hit, no-run baseball. Then continued with a bout against the division rival Guardians where he pitched six innings and let up one run on one hit and two walks. Then went on to pitch an eight-inning masterpiece against the Marlins.

By the way, all three of those games ended as no decisions.

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He ended his month with a start cut short against the Royals after he was hit in the hip by a line drive and a casual 6.1 innings pitched against the Blue Jays where he, you guessed it, threw up no earned runs on just three hits and earned his first win of the season.

Olson, by no means, has been perfect. His first three starts in June saw him let up 17 runs in just 14.2 innings for a staggering 10.43 ERA. And he ranks in the bottom 11% in average exit velo and bottom 9% in hard hit rate.

So some regression was bound to happen for Olson at some point, especially with how stellar his May was. But his past four starts have been back to what we saw in May, tossing an ERA of 1.88 and surpassing his season high in K’s with nine against the Angels. If Olson can stay consistently within this range, the Tigers could have another piece of the puzzle for their future.

What Does This Mean for the Tigers?

With Olson pitching so well, the Tigers can start to mold their Rotation for the future. Skubal is all but locked into that rotation unless an extension can’t be done or a trade is made for the lefty. Jackson Jobe is slotted to be the number two behind Skubal if all things go correctly in his development. That leaves a third spot in the rotation up for grabs for the next few years.

I don’t expect the Tigers to hold onto a guy like Flaherty for longer than even this upcoming trade deadline. He has too much value to not cash in on him, especially if you’re under the assumption he isn’t coming back to Detroit next year.

So that means you’re relying on guys like Keider Montero and Casey Mize to occupy that spot if it’s not Olson. And neither of them have shown that they can be relied on to be that guy.

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Mize has been injury prone for the past couple of years and Montero has struggled in the Majors up to this date. So, at this very moment, Reese Olson is the man for that job.

Olson is the perfect glue guy for your rotation of the future. With Skubal and Jobe heading the top of the rotation, Olson is your third day starter that can still shove and give you the chance to sweep, win or avoid a sweep in a series. It gives stability to the rotation. It gives room to develop a Ty Madden or pick up a veteran like a Jack Flaherty.

Most importantly, it gives you a little bit more of time.

Slotting Olson as that third pitcher means you’ve completed that part of your project. You can focus on a suitable bullpen to relieve these guys or build a less anemic offense.

Either way, Olson gives this team flexibility for the first time in a long time in this rebuild and if he can keep up his stellar play, the light at the end of the tunnel may be visible.