Another retirement to report: RHP Joel Zumaya is officially done. Ex-#Tiger last saw major league time in 2010.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 7, 2014
In many ways Zumaya was the Mark Fydrich of this generation of Detroit Tigers fans. Both were exceptional talents cursed by God awful luck and with bodies which just couldn't hold up to the rigors of pitching.
When the Tigers returned to relevance in 2006, Zumaya played a big part in their resurgence by bursting onto the scene with an electric fastball (clocked as high as 104 MPH) and a knee-buckling breaking ball. He would become a vital bullpen arm in the Tigers' first World Series season in two decades, pitching 81 1/3 innings over 62 games, adding six post season appearances.
Remarkably, Zumaya led the major leagues in 2006 with 233 pitches of 100 MPH or more. It bears repeating. Two Hundred and Thirty Three!
Zumaya ended his marvelous 2006 with a 6-3 record, one save, a 1.96 ERA, a .176 batting average with runners in scoring position, a K/9 rate of 10.5 and burdened with huge expectations as the closer of the future.
It was not to be. A promising career was quickly derailed by injury piling upon injury.
In 2006 there was the infamous sore wrist which was blamed on Zumaya playing Guitar Hero too vigorously, causing him to miss most of the ALCS . In 2007, Zumaya ruptured a tendon in his pitching hand, causing him to miss over three months of the season. In the following off season, Zumaya separated his right shoulder when a large box landed on him while helping his family evacuate from approaching wildfires. The bizarre shoulder injury forced Zumaya to miss most of the 2008 season.
The bad luck continued for Zumaya in 2009. He suffered from a sore shoulder which ultimately required surgery, ending his season in July.
In 2010, Zumaya appeared to have conquered the injury bug. In 30 games, he had a solid 2.63 ERA, a K rate of 8.0 and a career low walk rate of 2.6 per nine innings. But then came his 31st appearance. On June 28, 2010 against the Minnesota Twins, Zumaya's career essentially came to an end when he suffered one of the most shocking on-field injuries in team history.
Zumaya uncorked a 99 MPH fastball to Delmon Young, immediately grabbed his right elbow and collapsed in a heap, having fractured his forearm just behind the elbow on the pitch.
It was his last pitch as a Detroit Tiger. It was also his last pitch as a big league player.
Zumaya never took the field in 2011. In May of that year, Zumaya had exploratory surgery on his right elbow, where even more damage was found. After the season, the Tigers allowed their once closer of the future, now an injury riddled enigma, to become a free agent.
A 2012 comeback attempt with the Minnesota Twins was aborted before the season even started. In late February, Zumaya threw just 13 pitches before he tore his ulnar collateral ligament. Tommy John surgery ensued, ending all hope of a return to glory at the much too young age of 28.
Zumaya ends his meteoric five-year career with a 13-12 record and five saves over 171 appearances, 209 2/3 innings pitched, an ERA of 3.05, and 201 strikeouts.
Much as The Bird has 1976, Zoom-Zoom will always have 2006. For that year alone, Joel Zumaya will be forever remembered by Tigers fans.