With Jordan Zimmermann, it’s so easy to focus on the downside. You’ve got a pitcher, coming up on 30, who’s already had Tommy John surgery once. He just posted a second-half ERA north of 4 despite playing in a woeful division, and he just lost a bunch of strikeouts, and he also just lost some fastball velocity. Every pitcher has red flags, and Zimmermann might have one or two more than usual. We’re all to some extent risk-averse, so it might not immediately seem like a great idea to guarantee Zimmermann $110 million over five years. In an ideal world, you’d like a bit more certainty.
Not that there’s ever such a thing as certainty. Someone as certain as, say, Carl Crawford dropped 8 WAR in between leaving the Rays for the Red Sox. Certainty is a lie, and beyond that, it’s not like Zimmermann wasn’t most recently good. By whatever measure, he had a three-win season. It was his fifth in a row. Zimmermann does actually seem fairly steady, even if you figure he peaked in 2014.
And underneath, Zimmermann has something going on. Most people are concerned with what’s physically going on. And, admittedly, what I’m going to highlight has an unclear link to ultimate performance. But Zimmermann has been changing himself, and in one way, he continued something he began two years ago.