Thursday, October 05, 2006

Joel Zumaya: Force of Nature

In my previous post in which I took a guess at the playoff results, I compared the 2006 Detroit Tigers to the 2002 Anaheim Angels because of their lineup. Like that Angels team that won it all, the Tigers lack huge power threats in the middle and don't feature many patient hitters, but they have a host of aggressive players that will put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense.

Now it seems that there is another appropriate comparison to be made: the presense of a virtuoso rookie setup man. Like Frankie Rodriguez in 2002, Tigers' rookie Joel Zumaya is biding his time as a setup man on his way to bigger and better things in the coming years. And like K-Rod, he appears capable of becoming the X-Factor in this series against New York and for as long as the Tigers are still playing.

Unlike Rodriguez, who came out of nowhere, Zumaya has been around all year and his skills shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Armed with a fastball that has been clocked at 103 miles per hour, Zumaya went 6-3 during his rookie campaign with an ERA of 1.94, 97 strikeouts in just over 83 innings, and a ridiculous .187 opponents average against. He's certainly not a mystery to AL foes.

However, I'm not sure anyone was prepared for Zumaya to come out and absolutely dominate the Yankees the way he did earlier today. Pitching into rather fierce shadows and coming in on the heels of fellow rookie Justin Verlander (who can also push the fastball up near 100) and reliever Jamie Walker, Zumaya made the vaunted Yankees lineup look like little leaguers. Despite the fact that Verlander had been throwing extremely hard all game, Zumaya seemed to have another gear to his heater as he blew away A-Rod (although that wasn't terribly hard to do today) and retired all five batters he faced with ease.

His stuff was electric, he carried himself with poise and confidence, and he projected an aura of being completely unhittable. It was something you don't see very often from a rookie relief pitcher, that is for sure. In fact, if not for K-Rod, I'm not sure there would even be a precedent.

Now we just need to see if Joel Zumaya and his Detroit Tigers can follow in Fransisco Rodriguez's footsteps.

1 comment:

Tigers Fan said...

Good work on beating the masses to the Zumaya post. I wondered if anyone had noticed!