Make Or Break Year: Joel Zumaya

46520100620057_Dbacks_at_Tigers Long before Aroldis Chapman defected from Cuba, Joel Zumaya was the guy breaking all sorts of velocity records. During the 2006 ALDS, MLB Advanced Media's pitch tracking system clocked one of his fastballs at 104.8 mph, heights previously unreached. Zumaya, now 26, burst onto the scene that year with a 1.94 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 83 1/3 innings, holding opponents to a .187/.287/.270 batting line. The Tigers had their closer-in-waiting with Todd Jones nearing the end of his career, but injuries started to strike.

Since the start of the 2007 season, Zumaya has been on the 60-day disabled list five times, at least once per season. He had shoulder surgery to repair an AC joint separation in 2007, an injury he suffered helping his family move items in advance of California wildfires. Two years later he had another surgery on his shoulder, this time to correct a non-union stress fracture. Last year he suffered perhaps the ugliest injury of all, fracturing a bone in his elbow mid-pitch. 

That breakout 2006 season has been followed by four seasons with no more than 38 1/3 innings. Zumaya has been effective when he's been on the mound though, striking out 8.1 batters per nine and pitching to a 3.78 ERA over the last four years. He's not what he was that rookie season, but he's certainly been a quality relief arm, and quality relief arms have been rewarded with handsome multiyear contracts this winter.

Zumaya is now entering his final season of team control. He and the Tigers have already agreed to a $1.4MM salary for 2011, but that's a pittance compared to what he could make in the future with a strong and, most importantly, healthy season. Zumaya has already started throwing off a mound and is on track for Opening Day, but that's just step one of a season-long process.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


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37 Comments on "Make Or Break Year: Joel Zumaya"


Member
Ferrariman
4 years 4 months ago

how does a guy with a 100+ mph fastball last until the 11th round.

Member
wild05fan
4 years 4 months ago

Didn’t think he was capable of developing of a breakingball, but I understand you’re thinking on it. I would wonder the same thing. Scouting had to be off somewhere along the lines for organizations to not know about that power arm.

Member
dc21892
4 years 4 months ago

His mechanics blow. It’s well observed.

Member
Ferrariman
4 years 4 months ago

there are plenty of people with terribly violent mechanics who get taken very early because they have so much potential. Last year, Chris Sale was a great example. Zumaya was drafted out of high school though so maybe Allie is a better example. It just doesn’t make sense how he lasts that long.

Member
dc21892
4 years 4 months ago

I guess, but talent alone doesn’t overcome poor mechanics. Eventually the guys with poor mechanics will get injured unless it’s fixed. You can take a guy, hope he lasts a while before getting hurt or hope he changes his mechanics. For Zumaya, he throws SO hard with that awful release point, the extra velocity certainly doesn’t help his arm. Fracturing your elbow mid pitch is pretty hard to do.

Member
YanksFanSince78
4 years 4 months ago

Yeah but there’s so much known about mechanics now a day. How did the organization NOT make him change that?

Member
dc21892
4 years 4 months ago

Not sure.

Member
YanksFanSince78
4 years 4 months ago

Yeah but most scouts will know exactly what needs to be done about a guy and sign him anyway.

“Explosive stuff but really needs to change his mechanics to avoid health issues”. That sort of statement.

Member
The_Silver_Stacker
4 years 4 months ago

I say that to my dad anytime we watch A.J. Burnett pitch

Member
rbeezy
4 years 4 months ago

he threw low 90’s when he was drafted.

Member
verlander
4 years 4 months ago

He didn’t develop the 100mph fastball until he was in the Tigers’ system.

Member
dc21892
4 years 4 months ago

I wish the best to this guy, but he NEEDS to change his mechanics or he will continue going down with season ending injuries until he decides to give up trying to come back and pitching. His stuff is great, the only thing holding him back from becoming great, also, is his inability to stay healthy. His release point is very dangerous, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that he gets hurt so often.

Member
TheBigNice
4 years 4 months ago

What specific changes would you have him make that would preserve his velocity?? Why is his release point so dangerous?? I’m not being sarcastic, I really want to know.

I think he ought to add power changeup… that’s not overly taxing to ones arm compared to a breaking pitch, correct??

Member
dc21892
4 years 4 months ago

It’s tough to explain over the computer, but, his elbow is not supposed to be where it is when he releases the ball. Where his elbow is now is causing like 10 times more stress on his arm. Add that stress in and it’s obvious how his elbow fractured mid pitch. I’m not sure exactly how he can change this and still throw 100, but he has to change it in order to stay healthy. It’s great to throw 100, but if you can’t pitch due to constant injuries, who cares?

Member
Ferrariman
4 years 4 months ago

i think you guys mean “For Todd Jones” not “with Todd Jones”

Member
4 years 4 months ago

“with Todd Jones nearing the end of his career.” I think you read it wrong, that’s grammatically correct.

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Amazing talent, no doubt, but why doesn’t someone just tell him to throw 98mph instead of 105? Granted I’m no pitching coach, but I have to imagine just a little less force/strain will do him wonders as far as staying healthy.

Member
inleylandwetrust
4 years 4 months ago

It would be amazing to get a full season out of him, but that is pretty unlikely. Good thing we won’t be counting on him this season and anything he gives us is just icing on top.