There was some news over the weekend that you guys might have missed if you had plans, or probably also if you didn't have plans. Free agent reliever Joel Zumaya agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins on a contract. The news didn't make major headlines. Zumaya missed the entire 2011 season. With the Twins, Zumaya isn't going to close. The Twins are pretty bad. For these reasons and others, Zumaya didn't command much in the way of attention.
Now, Joel Zumaya is an interesting case. Everybody knows that Zumaya can get his fastball into the mid- and high-90s. A guy who can get his fastball into the mid- and high-90s stands a chance of being a very effective pitcher. At a recent workout in front of scouts, Zumaya was throwing just about as hard as ever. But Zumaya also has a reputation. A not altogether unfair reputation, at that. Zumaya has a reputation for always getting hurt.
Zumaya has long battled injury problems, which have obviously made the overall package less appealing. A guy who throws a hard fastball and is dependable has more value than a guy who throws a hard fastball and is not dependable. An injured player contributes nothing. Nothing at all! An injured player doesn't even play!
In the interest of balance, though, I'm here to provide video evidence that Joel Zumaya isn't actually always getting hurt. Joel Zumaya is sometimes capable of doing his job without sustaining an injury. You might not believe me now. But you will believe your eyes. Thanks go out to Major League Baseball's lenient YouTube policy for allowing the following videos to exist.
Look at all of those pitches that Joel Zumaya throws! All of those pitches, and no injury sustained. In fact, Zumaya feels well enough after throwing all of those pitches that he performs a few arm exercises near the end of the video. These pitches are thrown in the bullpen and not in a game, so the conditions are a little different, but here we're establishing proof of concept.
More pitches without an injury. And this time in a game! An entire at bat, and against Manny Ramirez to boot. That is probably Joel Zumaya pitching. I choose to take the word of the YouTube content creator that that is Joel Zumaya pitching.
Here we see an injury-free Joel Zumaya pitching against Seattle. The video is really horrible to watch. This is because baseball in Seattle is really horrible to watch. Seattle is all tucked away up there in the corner and nobody realizes that they play their games in mind-numbing slo-mo for some reason.
Joel Zumaya throws a pitch to Ryan Zimmerman that Zimmerman pops up. Zumaya jogs somewhere after Zimmerman makes contact but I'm going to assume he was not jogging off of the field because of an injury.
Here's Joel Zumaya kind of standing around. He's not pitching but he's not not pitching, and at no point does it look like he's hurt. And those are long throws that he's making, too. Really long throws that he's successfully and healthily making!
Here's Joel Zumaya getting removed from the mound in a video game. Prior to getting removed Zumaya looks ready to throw a pitch and not in any way hurt. Video games have pretty realistic injury settings nowadays so this is good.
Here's Joel Zumaya in a minor league bullpen. He's just fine maybe, even after throwing a breaking ball!
Joel Zumaya is an obvious risk to end up injured. He's been injured before, often, and he'll probably get injured again down the road. That's just part of the deal of being Joel Zumaya, and having him on your team. But Joel Zumaya does not get injured all the time doing anything, and he does not get injured all the time while pitching. He has pitched in 171 major league games, and he just did that workout in front of scouts like a handful of weeks ago. I don't think he got injured. Joel Zumaya's injury risk is very much real, and very much overstated.