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Detroit Tigers: Why Jordan Zimmermann Will Be Better in Motown

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The soon-to-be newest Detroit Tigers pitcher had a down year in 2015. Well, a down year compared to his previous seasons.

Jordan Zimmermann won 45 games while pitching to a 2.96 ERA and 3.18 FIP from 2012 to 2014. During that span he made 96 starts, totaled 608.2 innings and only allowed a combined 21 home runs.

Then 2015 happened.  

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The 29-year-old’s ERA jumped an entire run from 2014, rising from 2.66 to 3.66 and his FIP increased substantially as well, going from 2.68 to 3.75.

Improved Defense

Those numbers should come back down with the Tigers. Zimmerman’s infield didn’t always help him out last season. Three of the Nats’ five most commonly used infielders posted negative numbers in terms of zone fielding runs above average. Anthony Rendon checked in at -3, Ian Desmond at -9 and Yunel Escobar at -16. The other two infields, Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman, put up a cumulative +5 in the zone fielding statistic.

During the 2015 season in Detroit, the Tigers’ five most-used infielders (Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine, Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias) put up a collective +4 in zone fielding runs above average.

Of the five, the only two who scored in the negative were Castellanos and Iglesias. The third baseman has taken massive strides in improving his defense since reaching the major league level. His defensive metrics were awful during his rookie year, but improved considerably during his sophomore campaign. The good news for Zimmermann is that given how Castellanos has gotten better on the defensive side of the ball, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the player take similar steps forward and post a positive zone fielding number. Iglesias’ negative stat is a tad more inexplicable given the shortstop’s tendency to amaze with a consistent supply of highlight-reel plays. It may just be an anomaly that evens out next season. 

All of this is without mentioning Dixon Machado, who may turn out to be just as good Iglesias on defense. In other words, Detroit’s infield should be a strength in 2016. That should benefit Zimmermann. Throw in the fact that the Tigers’ five best infielders were 27 runs better than Washington’s top five and you have the makings of a much better year for the now-former National.

Run Support

Of his 33 starts in 2015, Zimmermann made 22 when receiving three or more runs of support. He posted an 11-4 record in those starts. While those numbers are all and well, the pitcher still made a grand total of 11 starts when receiving two or fewer runs of support.

Despite a 3.00 ERA in those contests he still went 2-6.

While the Nationals did score more runs than the Tigers (14 to be exact), Detroit graded out much more positively in batting average and on-base percentage.

Brad Ausmus’ team led the league with a .270 batting average and was second in on-base percentage thanks to a .328 number. This was despite an extremely sub-par season from Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera only playing in 119 games and the fact that Yoenis Cespedes was traded in July.

By comparison, the Nats only hit .250 and posted a .321 on-base percentage.

With a fully healthy Cabrera, a rebounding Martinez and an offense that could be upgraded even further as the offseason progress, Zimmermann should receive much more run support in Detroit.

Next: Detroit Tigers In Serious Discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Thanks to an improved defensive-infield and much more run support, Jordan Zimmermann should be much better with the Detroit Tigers than he was in 2015 with the Washington Nationals. He’ll be worth every penny the team pays for him.

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