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Tigers vs. Phillies Preview: Jordan Zimmermann is still searching for his first win

Zimmermann is still O-fer in his seven decisions in 2019.

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Boston Red Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Jordan Zimmermann is slowly moving his way up a rather dubious list. There have been 70 pitchers throughout MLB history to come away winless after their first 12 starts of a given season, and the 2019 version of Zimmermann is one of them. That list will narrow the longer he goes without a W — he will become one of 47 if he doesn’t win this start, and one of 29 if he goes two more starts without a win.

If there’s a silver lining to be found, it’s that Zimmermann won’t set the record. Tampa Bay opener Ryne Stanek is the king of this mountain, with two consecutive seasons of at least 27 starts without a win (Matt Keough of the 1979 Oakland Athletics has the longest streak among actual starters, at 20).

Sadly, Zimmermann doesn’t seem particularly close to snapping his streak. He has been tagged for 20 runs in his last three starts, and a whopping 28 hits in just 11 innings. Opponents have an .880 OPS against him this year, and he is nearing the top of another list.

Zimmermann also has the fifth-highest ERA in Tigers history (minimum 300 innings pitched) at 5.52. But can he turn it around and beat his former NL East rivals on Wednesday?

Philadelphia Phillies (53-48) at Detroit Tigers (30-66)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: The Good Phight
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.87 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-7, 7.51 ERA)

Game 98 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Velasquez 61.0 26.3 9.0 5.88 -0.2
Zimmermann 56.1 15.3 7.3 4.59 0.8

For as bad as Zimmermann has been this season, Phillies starter Vince Velasquez hasn’t been much better. While his ERA is nearly three runs lower, other metrics have him on par or even worse than Zimmermann has been. This is especially true when you dive into his splits as a starter; Velasquez has given up 2.49 home runs per nine innings in his 11 starts, and has a lower strikeout rate than in his innings out of the bullpen. The result? A 5.89 FIP that is over a full run higher than Zimmermann’s, at 4.59. Opponents have managed an .839 OPS against him, and that’s aided by a low-ish .266 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Deserved Run Average (DRA) is decidedly in Velasquez’s favor, but a 5.42 DRA isn’t exactly impressive.

And yet, one can’t help but wonder what would happen if Velasquez could just get the home runs under control. He has struck out over a batter per inning as a starter this year, and nearly 13 per nine innings as a reliever, and his nine percent walk rate is acceptable. His 17.3 percent K-BB% would rank among the top 30 qualified starters in baseball if he had thrown enough innings.

Key matchup: Tigers offense vs. scoring runs

The Tigers are the worst offense in baseball against right-handed pitching this season, with a scant 74 wRC+ on the year. Their .152 ISO against righties is tied for the worst in the American League, and their 26.3 percent strikeout rate is the highest in baseball. This makes them a rather bad matchup for Velasquez, who still averages 95 miles per hour with his fastball and is generating a career-best 12 percent swinging strike rate.


Zimmermann gets his first win of the year because baseball.