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Detroit Tigers Player Profile: Jordan Zimmermann

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Mar 5, 2016; Melbourne, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) throws against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Melbourne, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) throws against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jordan Zimmermann was a significant signing for the Detroit Tigers this offseason. What did the Tigers get from the former Washington National?

The Detroit Tigers’ biggest free agency splash this offseason was Jordan Zimmermann, who signed a five-year $110 million deal. He was deemed to be a part of the replacement plan for Max Scherzer and David Price after the Tigers parted ways with both aces.

Most fans liked the deal: it was a five-year contract compared to a seven or eight year deal, and the price was steep, but not unprecedented for a front-end free agent starting pitcher.

Zimmermann was one of the Nationals’ top starters during his time there. He consistently threw around 200 innings, posted more than 160 strikeouts and had an ERA around 3.50. He is a workhorse, which the Tigers lost in Scherzer and Price.

In 2016, ZiPS projects Zimmermann regress with a 12-9 record, a 4.02 ERA, a 3.97 FIP, and a 1.22 WHIP. They believe his K/9 will drop to 6.80 compared to his 8.20 in 2014 and 7.32 in 2014. Steamer believes Zimmermann will perform a little bit better, but not much with a 12-11 record, a 3.86 ERA, a 4.09 FIP, and a 1.23 WHIP.

The Tigers are taking a considerable risk on Zimmermann based on the fact that he is the first pitcher in Major League history to receive a $100 million contract after undergoing Tommy John surgery, his 2015 performance and his peripherals.

Just after the Tigers signed Zimmermann, FanGraphs published an article documenting Zimmermann’s pitching repertoire. Zimmermann mixes his pitches, throwing fastballs around 60% with his slider, curveball, and changeup rounding out the remaining 40%. Zimmermann’s pitch mix allowed him to have the a career best season with his curveball and the second best year with his slider, but struggled with his fastball. 

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Besides Zimmermann’s curveball and slider performance, Zimmermann declined in 2015. With the 3 worst offenses in baseball in his division, Zimmerman posted a career worst 3.66 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 3.75 FIP, and 1.1 HR/9. Zimmermann also regressed from 1.3 to 1.7 BB/9 and 8.2 to 7.3 K/9.

With his surgery and workload lurking in the background, Zimmermann’s most troubling peripheral is his fastball velocity and effectiveness. Zimmermann’s fastball velocity has declined from 93.9 mph in 2013 to 93.7 mph in 2014 to 93.0 mph in 2015. The amount of pitches above 95.0 mph has declined from 272 to 159 to 31 from 2013-2015 and from 987 to 928 to 296 pitches above 94.0 mph.

Not only has the velocity declined, Zimmermann’s fastballs have been rising in the zone over time and he was punished for it in 2015. According to FanGraphs, Zimmermann’s fastball ranked in the 89th percentile in 2014 and in the 88th percentile from 2012-2014, but regressed to the 33rd percentile in 2015. For Zimmermann to sustain success, he will need to properly locate his fastball and increase his breaking ball use.

Next: Detroit Tigers Player Profile: Jose Iglesias

Finally, Zimmermann will have to make the switch from the American League to the National League. In 2015, National League pitchers combined for a 3.91 ERA while the American League pitchers combined for a 4.01 ERA.

For more Detroit Tigers Player Profiles, check out our Detroit Tigers player profiles hub page.

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