Detroit Tigers' Parker Meadows has struggled vs. fastballs. His HR may be turning point

Parker Meadows finally got into one.

The 24-year-old, an elite defender in center fielder for the Detroit Tigers, had two hits in 38 at-bats this season, and not one in his past 18 at-bats, when he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning of Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers, facing right-handed reliever Austin Pruitt. He put some balls in play with hard contact but didn't have anything to show, at least not until swinging at Pruitt's middle-middle fastball for a solo home run to right-center field.

Meadows has been trying to get on time for fastballs.

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"Didn't miss it, finally," Meadows said. "I've been missing a lot of those all year so far, but it's part of it."

Meadows hammered Pruitt's 90.7 mph fastball with a 108.7 mph exit velocity. He hit the ball 399 feet.

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Meadows entered Wednesday's game with two hits, but only one hit on a fastball. He had 11 of hits 17 strikeouts against fastballs. His expected batting average against fastballs, at .042, looked almost exactly like his actual batting average against fastballs. He also had a 33.3% whiff rate on fastballs.

As a result of those issues, Meadows didn't record his third hit of the season until Wednesday's seventh-inning home run.

"For me, when I'm loaded up for the heater, that allows me to see everything well. I felt good on the heater. I felt like I was on the fastball, and I saw the ball well. I'll continue to build off that."

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Hitting coach Michael Brdar has been working with Meadows on the specific goal of calibrating his timing against fastballs. The Tigers knew Meadows would provide elite defense (89th percentile in outs above average) and base-running (96th percentile in sprint speed), but the offense (fifth percentile in whiff rate) was always the biggest question mark.

It continues to be a work-in-progress.

"I can be patient," manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday morning on WXYT-FM (97.1 The Ticket). "You still should be excited about Parker, like 3-for-30s and these tough stretches do not mean you should jump off board. There's a lot to like. What I try to urge with young players is don't ride the roller coaster, just stay with your process, stay with your plan, do your preparation. And then, obviously, you got to be held accountable to your performance, but he brings game every day to help us win. That gives us the patience to let the ups and downs of the offensive side of his game level out a little bit."

THE SLOW START: Tigers' Parker Meadows maintains confidence while trying to time up fastballs

Detroit Tigers outfielder Parker Meadows celebrates a home run in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan.
Detroit Tigers outfielder Parker Meadows celebrates a home run in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan.

Meadows maintained his rookie status after a cup of coffee — just 37 games — last season, hitting .232 (29-for-125) with three home runs, 17 walks and 37 strikeouts. This season, he is hitting .077 (3-for-39) with one home run, eight walks and 17 strikeouts in 17 games.

He had a 24% whiff rate in 2023, followed by a much worse 36.7% whiff rate so far in 2024.

He isn't putting the ball in play enough.

"I'm just riding the wave, man," Meadows said. "It's a roller coaster. I'm going in every day with a full head of confidence, sticking to my routine and trusting myself."

But Meadows put the ball in play with power in Wednesday's loss.

It was a much-needed home run.

"Felt good to find a barrel," Meadows said. "It's been too long. I've been seeing the ball better in the past couple days. I'll just continue to build on that."

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him @EvanPetzold.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Parker Meadows has struggled, but had a breakthrough