The Eulogly of Joel Zumaya

While most expressed hope that Joel Zumaya would remain injury free in 2012, there were a number that wanted him to fail, to rest in piece in his Minnesota grave. The only team that could have made Tigers Nation more annoyed at Joel Zumaya would be if he had signed with the Chicago White Sox. Deep down, in every Tigers fans heart, there is a feeling of inferiority to the brother and sister of the west. 2003 wasn’t that long ago (where everyone was better), and neither was 2005 or 2009. The Tigers good fortune in the AL Central is still recent and untrustworthy and Joel Zumaya’s rookie season in 2006 is still one of the fondest recent memories anyone following the Motor City Bengals can have.

“Zoom Zoom” burst onto the scene at 21 years old and fired 100 MPH heaters in 62 games for Detroit that year. A 1.94 ERA, 236 ERA+, 83.1 IP, 97 SO, a WHIP of 1.176 and 10.9 SO/9 all allowed a middle relief pitcher to post a WAR of 3.4, which is incredibly high for the type of role he played for the AL Champions.

Then, I suppose it was a precursor to the rest of his career, Zumaya was held out of the ALCS because of a sore wrist, which Dave Dombrowski admitted was due to Zumaya playing Guitar Hero. Freaking Guitar Hero.

Thus follows Zoom’s 2007-2011 seasons:

In May 2007, he ruptured a tendon in his hand, requiring surgery and 12 weeks rehab.

On August 2, 2007 he pitched in his first game and finished the year with 28 games, a 4.28 ERA and 27 SO in 33.2 IP.

He injured his shoulder during the offseason as he was helping his old man move boxes in the attic so of course a 60 pound box fell on his right shoulder, separating it. The Tigers put him on the 60-day DL to start the 2008 season.

Zumaya rejoined the Tigers on June 20, 2008, pitched in 21 games, had a 3.47 ERA and 22 SO in 23.1 IP.

2009 was a pain. Literally. He was placed on the DL with a sore right shoulder on March 27, then reactivated by the end of April. Then he was back on the DL following a July 18 appearance against New York, where it was reported he could barely move his right arm.

He had surgery in August and was done for the season and finished with 29 appearances, a 4.94 ERA and 30 SO in 31 IP.

2010 was obviously the most horrifying of all seasons. Up until June 28th he was back. He had appeared in 31 games through the first three months. His ERA was 2.58, his velocity was still there as he had churned 34 SO in 38.1 innings, but he was a better pitcher than ever before. His WHIP was at an all time low, 1.12, he was only walking 2.6 men per 9 innings (career average over 5) and it seemed he had finally managed to be healthy.

Then he faced Delmon Young of the Minnesota Twins.

The next day an MRI revealed he had a non-displaced fracture of the olecranon. Doctors said it would take four months to heal, ending his season.

As we all know, Zoom missed the entire next season as well after undergoing exploratory surgery on his right elbow on May 10th. While the surgery found no new damage, they discovered that the reason he couldn’t regain any of his strength was because the screw inserted during his first surgery needed to be replaced.

Zoom obviously didn’t pitch all year and signed with the Twins this spring.

He lasted 13 Spring Training pitches before tearing his UCL. He will assuredly miss the entire season, and after all the injuries and setbacks, frustration and expectations, one wonders if this is the end for his career. We hope not, collectively as fans of the sport, and cross our fingers that he has a bit more hope in that right arm.

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