Detroit Tigers 2016 Season Review: Jordan Zimmermann

Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Jordan Zimmermann entered 2016 with a bang, looking like a guy that could help carry the Tigers to the postseason. But fatigue from that fast start led to injuries that lingered throughout the rest of the season. And now, the Tigers aren’t sure what they have in Zimmermann going forward.

Jordan Zimmermann was lights out with the Detroit Tigers through April and May, posting an 8-2 record with a 2.58 ERA. With Justin Verlander getting off to a slow start during the season’s first two months, Zimmermann was the steady force in the Tigers rotation.

The recipient of a five-year, $110 million dollar contract, Zimmermann looked worth every penny (and perhaps a bargain) early on.

When the calendar flipped to June, however, things started going in the wrong direction.
A seven-run outing in Toronto on June 8th was the start of Zimmermann’s downfall. He gave up four or more earned runs in four of his next five starts.

Health starts to go

Following a bevy of bad outings, Zimmermann’s health started to go. A groin injury led to a lat strain, which led to a neck strain during his rehab.

All-in-all, Zimmermann spent more than a month on the DL when the Tigers were trotting Anibal Sanchez and Buck Farmer out to the mound. In the middle of a race for the playoffs, the Tigers needed someone that could at least keep them in games. Turns out, Zimmermann may never have had it in him to do that anyways.

Upon his return to the mound in mid-September, Zimmermann got the nod in a key start against the Baltimore Orioles, one of the teams the Tigers were chasing for the American League wild card. The right-hander gave up six runs before even recording an out in the second inning. He walked three and was clearly not the pitcher he was early in the season.

Zimmermann was able to make a relief appearance against Kansas City before getting his final start of the year in Atlanta, where he wasn’t terrible, giving up just two runs over four innings. But it was clear the Tigers needed someone who could give them more as they lost that game, 5-3, and missed out on the playoffs.

Now what?

While nobody believes that Zimmermann is the guy who was one of the best pitchers in baseball over the first two months of the season, he’s definitely capable of coming back healthy next year and contributing to a rotation that appears loaded with talent. Verlander looked like the best pitcher in baseball over the season’s final three months, Michael Fulmer should win the AL Rookie of the Year award and Daniel Norris looked like a future ace over the season’s final weeks.

Zimmermann will probably never live up to his contract, but from strictly a baseball
standpoint, he should make for a fine fourth starter in 2017. That is, as long as he can stay healthy. And if he does, the Tigers will have a loaded rotation that should keep them in contention for at least one more year.

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