Sunday, 17 May 2009

Jordan Zimmermann's QMAX Prospectus

Jordan Zimmermann is being treated to a particularly narrow strike zone by home plate umpire Mike Reilly in today's game. Even before that, though, his Quality Matrix readings were somewhat deflating for any view that he might be the second coming of Alvin Crowder or somebody. The question is whether this would be par performance for a prospect of his age. Let's look first at Zimmermann's ratings prior to today:

Date          Stuff,Command     QMAX
ratings Category
Apr 20 4,3 Success Square
Apr 26 5,4 --
May 1 6,3 Hit Hard
May 7 4,4 --
May 12 5,3 --

Zimmermann's shown a lot of promise if you watch him pitch, with impressive movement, but he's not really putting up great results here. The problem is he's not doing particularly well either with his 'Stuff' (preventing hits) or his Command (preventing walks).

But who to compare him with? Baseball Prospectus' 'deadly accurate' PECOTA player-projection system uses minor-league and major-league statistics to locate players showing similar statistical profiles. In the 2009 edition, they show four players as comparables for Zimmermann — Bobby Jones, Erik Hanson, Terry Taylor and John Maine. Taylor only pitched one game in the majors, but the others have all had reasonable careers. Let's look at the first five starts of each of them in turn, in chronological order.

Erik Hanson (1988)
Start         Stuff,Command     QMAX
ratings Category
1 3,2 Success Square
2 1,3 Success Square
3 4,1 Success Square
4 2,3 Success Square
5 4,4 --

Well, he was pretty good, much better than Zimmermann, yet didn't pitch well past his age-30 season.

Bobby Jones (1993)
Start         Stuff,Command     QMAX
ratings Category
1 5,3 --
2 7,3 Hit Hard
3 5,3 --
4 3,3 Success Square
5 2,1 Elite Square

That's more Zimmermann-like, almost identical command numbers, but he shows an improving arc, not Zimmermann's decline. Jones wasn't particularly effective past his age-28 season. However, like Hanson, Jones started his career in September, so maybe he had the advantage of facing a lot of cup-of-coffee scrubs.

John Maine (2004-5)
Start         Stuff,Command     QMAX
ratings Category
1 6,5 Hit Hard
2 2,4 Success Square
3 3,5 Power Precipice
4 4,3 Success Square
5 5,4 --

Maine was a little better at hit prevention than Zimmermann, and a little more wild. He's still pitching, and doing well enough, although he's not an elite starter.

On the whole, I'd say Zimmermann's record as of today is about par; maybe just below par, but nothing to worry about. However, based on the story so far, and the absence of any seriously good pitchers in his comparables, I can't help but wonder if Zimmermann's over-hyped. He's got good stuff, but he's not dominating opposing hitters yet. I'll watch the rest of his season with interest, though. And I'm rooting for him to prove me wrong.

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