Jordan Zimmermann Is Headed To Motown

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The Detroit Tigers 2015 season was a bit of a letdown. With mounting injuries and under performance, they moved the ace of the staff for some pieces to re-stock the system. Ian York takes a look at the Tigers’ latest free agent acquisition, Jordan Zimmermann.

Jordan Zimmermann agreed to a five-year $110 million deal with the Detroit Tigers on November 29th. The 29-year old is the first of the front-line pitching free agents to sign this offseason. Zimmermann entered the 2015 season coming off a fantastic 2014 with the Washington Nationals, having finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting. However, the right-hander saw his ERA go up a full run from 2.66 in 2014 to 3.66 last season. Most of his peripherals were right in line with his career norms, but he did see an uptick in home runs allowed (13 in 2014 and 24 in 2015), and a slight drop in fastball velocity from 94.6 mph in 2014, to 93.4 mph in 2015. Inconsistency plagued Zimmermann throughout the 2015 season as he allowed four earned runs or more in nine games. He has pitched in 32 or 33 games the last four seasons, and has been a picture of health since recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2012.

In 2015, Zimmermann had a fairly small repertoire – basically a four-seam fastball, slider, and curve. He throws a changeup, but he only used the pitch a handful of times in the year, all to left-handed batters. PITCHf/x suggests that he also throws occasional two-seam fastballs (sinkers), but if so, they blend indistinguishably into the four-seam.

However, his four-seam does have a wide range of speeds and widely varying amounts and directions of break, so the pitch could easily be treated as two or three different pitches, depending on how he throws it.
None of his pitches are overwhelming, either in velocity or movement, but he locates all of them well. His fastball tends to hit the top and sides of the strike zone. His most effective pitch is probably his slider, which he throws to both right- and left-handed batters, though preferentially to righties. To RHB, the slider is usually a strike, while to LHB it might drop out of bottom or hit the center of the zone, making decisions difficult. He does the opposite with the curve, preferentially throwing it to LHB, and mainly throwing it below the zone to righties.

Even though the Tigers didn’t sign one of the Big Three of David Price, Zack Greinke or Johnny Cueto, they are adding the fourth best of the FA starters in Zimmermann for below what he could have gotten elsewhere. In 2014, the Tigers ranked near the bottom in MLB in starter ERA (4.78) and FIP (4.50) and that was with Price making 21 starts. Zimmermann should make around than more starts than Price because of his trade to Toronto, but even if he gets back to being the pitcher he was in 2014 the Tigers and their fans shouldn’t expect to get above .500 in 2016 unless they are able to make more improvements and have better luck with injuries.

Ian York has written about Xander Bogaerts, Rich Hill, Joe Kelly’s approach in certain counts, theeffect of better bullpens on offensive strategy, Rick Porcello’s resurgenceMatt Barnes’ first start, the much improved Jackie Bradley Jr., and Wade Davis.

Follow Ian on Twitter @iayork.

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