Zimmermann didn’t rank at the top of the list of free-agent pitchers, but was at the top of the second tier. He’ll help the Tigers starting pitching staff, which ranked 27th in the majors with a 4.78 ERA.
The Tigers have shored up both their starting rotation and their bullpen with the acquisitions of Zimmermann and Francisco Rodriguez.
What Zimmermann brings
Zimmermann is one of six pitchers who produced at least 3.5 Wins Above Replacement in each of the last four seasons. The others are Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels, and fellow free agent Zack Greinke. His 16.7 Wins Above Replacement in that time rank ninth in the majors, one spot ahead of now-teammate Justin Verlander.
Zimmermann’s 810 1/3 innings in that span rank 12th in the majors. His 3.13 ERA ranks 11th and his 1.13 WHIP ranks 15th.
Zimmermann is more control artist than lineup dominator. His 1.82 walks per 9 innings ranks second-lowest among active pitchers, trailing only former Nationals teammate (and former Tigers pitcher) Doug Fister (1.77).
Zimmermann is coming off his worst full season. He posted a 3.66 ERA, up a full run from 2014 and more than his second-highest in a full season by a considerable marging (3.25 in 2013). One primary cause of this was that Zimmermann allowed 24 home runs, 11 more than he yielded in 2014 and five more than he gave up in any other season.
Zimmermann had a hard time getting extra zip on his fastball. The pitch averaged 93.0 mph in 2015, down eight-tenths of a mile-per-hour from 2014. Zimmermann allowed 18 home runs with his fastball, one shy of the total he allowed with the pitch in 2013 and 2014.
Zimmermann is the seventh free-agent starting pitcher to get a five-year contract worth at least $22 million annually. Two got that money last season- Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. The others are Greinke, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathis and Masahiro Tanaka.
This is the second time the Tigers have committed five years to a starting pitcher in the last four offseasons. They gave Anibal Sanchez five years and $80 million in the 2012-13 offseason.
Sanchez was worth 8.7 Wins Above Replacement in the first two seasons of the deal (he led the AL in ERA in 2013), but was a replacement-level pitcher in 2015, with a 4.99 ERA and an AL-leading 29 home runs allowed in 25 starts.