Matt Tuiasosopo was hitting .342 as late as July 11, but suddenly went into a tailspin he did not pull out of. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit — He simply stopped hitting.
And started missing way too many pitches.
That’s why Matt Tuiasosopo, as much of a pleasant surprise as he was the first half of last season, is no longer with the Tigers.
In a flurry of moves Friday, all involving players departing, Tuiasosopo was claimed off waivers by the Diamondbacks.
At the same time, the Tigers announced left-handed relief pitcher Darin Downs was claimed by the Astros and that the $3.25 million option on relief pitcher Jose Veras’ contract was not exercised.
Instead of retaining Veras, the Tigers opted for a $150,000 buyout. He still could be brought back as a free agent if he agrees to a salary lower than the one he was going to make, but that doesn’t often happen.
There’d been some speculation the Tigers would keep Veras because their incumbent closer, Joaquin Benoit, is a free agent and because Bruce Rondon didn’t establish himself. But neither reason overrode the financial realities of Veras’ contract.
In other words, the Tigers didn’t foresee Veras’ value being $3.25 million.
Veras posted a 3.20 ERA in 25 games after being acquired July 29 for a pair of prospects, but he also gave up the grand slam to Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series that all but ended the Tigers season.
“We’re not disappointed,” Veras said after that game. “That’s baseball. That’s the way it is. Somebody has to win.”
The fact Downs was on waivers is no surprise because he was left off the postseason roster.
Downs was with the Tigers two seasons, the first being better than the second.
He was 2-1 with a 3.84 ERA in 18 appearances in 2012, but his ERA climbed to 4.84 in 29 games and he went 0-2 last season. And he held left-handed hitters to a .171 average in 2012 and .216 this season, but five of the 14 hits he allowed to lefties this season went for extra bases (three doubles, two home runs).
Even so, Downs’ departure leaves the Tigers with three experienced lefties in the bullpen — Phil Coke, Drew Smyly and Jose Alvarez.
And with Coke coming off a rough year, it’s not certain he’ll be tendered a contract.
As for Tuiasosopo, the year was two seasons in one.
He was hitting .342 as late as July 11, but suddenly went into a tailspin he did not pull out of. In his final 85 at-bats, he hit .153 with 34 strikeouts. With one home run but no other extra-base hits, his slugging average his final 41 games was .188.
Accordingly, Tuiasosopo wasn’t surprised he was left off the postseason roster, and no doubt understood why the Tigers didn’t retain him.
“I was doing a lot of swinging and missing,” he said after the season. “I wasn’t hitting the ball.
“Maybe I was pressing too much, or trying too hard, and while I tried to stay away from looking at stats, I know my average dropped a lot. I went down a spiral you don’t want to go down. I wish I could have finished stronger. It was frustrating. I struck out a lot.”
With six home runs and 21 RBIs in 79 at-bats before his slump — not to mention the .342 he was hitting — Tuiasosopo had his moments with the Tigers.
They just ended too soon for him to remain with them.