On my long, snowy drive home today from work I was listening to Pat Caputo on 1270XYT talking Tigers baseball. Now, I usually avoid listening to Pat. Nothing personal but I really cannot stand the rambling on for hours that goes on. I rarely agree as well but for most others I enjoy the different opinion. But with winter continuing on I’m clamoring for anything baseball related.
One topic of discussion tonight was Zumaya and what future role he will/could fill for the Tigers. Many have assumed that the Tigers are grooming Joel for a closing role and that is certainly one I’m sure he would fill wonderfully. Pat’s take, as well as many of the callers who phoned in, was that Zumaya should be headed toward a role in the starting rotation. A few good points were made:
- Joel has a number of good pitches. Obviously the fastball, a killer change-up and a breaking ball that he can locate pretty well. Not having more than one or two really good pitches is one reason that many are relegated to late inning relief/closing roles.
- A role as a starter will ultimately help keep his arm in working condition. Being in starting rotation will force him to bring the velocity down a bit which can help.
- The closer role can be filled, and often is, by new rookies or relatively new pitchers or just about anybody. The examples given here were the last two World Series winners with Jenks and Wainwright.
Enough with making other peoples points for them though and get to what I think. I believe that Joel is right where he needs to be as a relief/setup man. I agree with the points made but I also believe that many underestimate the importance of late inning relief. At the same time I believe many overestimate or place undue importance on the role of the closer.
Zumaya played an extremely important part of Tigers games last year coming in on close games and giving the team two innings of strong pitching. This is outside of the number of times that he was brought in to get a struggling starter out of a jam. This is not possible in the closing role. You get one inning a night. You get no option to bring them in to pitch out of a jam.
One of Joels strengths is his powerful fastball followed by a brutal change-up. Joel thrives on clutch situation and much of his pitching is through emotion. I think a starting position will take much of that sizzle away.
I hope for years to come to see Joel where he is now coming in and getting us an out when we need it. Giving us a multiple innings of safety when the game is on the line. Keeping us in the game when we are a little behind. The relief role is one that fits him well and there is no reason for change.
Stay put Zumaya.