Detroit Tigers set up man, Joel Zumaya, has fractured his elbow and his lost for the balance of the 2010 MLB season. On top of that, given this is the fourth straight season where he has gone down due to injury, his career may be in jeopardy. In the eighth inning of last night’s game against the Minnesota Twins, Zumaya delivered a 99 mph fastball to Delmon Young and immediately grabbed the elbow and fell to the field in a great amount of pain. This is a huge blow to the Tigers as a team, who with the win took possession of first place in the American League Central.
How big a blow is this? Well the last time Zumaya made it through an entire season unscathed, the Tigers found themselves in the World Series. While we kind of expected an injury Zumaya he has excelled in his role as the Tigers set up man. His stats so far in 2010 were very encouraging with a 2-1 record, 2.58 ERA. He has struck out 34 batters while issuing just 11 walks. All in all about what you would expect from a top tier set up guy.
It seems to me that Zumaya’s problems stem from his violent arm motion in his pitching delivery. Human beings just are not meant to throw as hard as this kid has over the past few years. He regularly delivers the baseball over 100 mph. That is a pretty big change from what he was when he was drafted, and the kind of pitcher he was in the minor league.
When he was first drafted, and through the early part of his minor league career Zumaya topped out at around 91 mph on average. A few years ago, after being a starting pitcher, the Tigers moved him to the bullpen and something clicked and he found tremendous velocity. It now seems that this change has ruined his arm, and it seems very unlikely that his career will continue.