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2021 Season in Review: Kyle Zimmer

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Paging Andy McCullough.

Kyle Zimmer #45 of the Kansas City Royals reacts during a game between the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 27, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Kyle Zimmer #45 of the Kansas City Royals reacts during a game between the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 27, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

I don’t know if you guys remember it, because 2019 might well have been a billion years ago, but watching Kyle Zimmer make his big league debut was like watching a unicorn dab in front of your car on your commute. Drafted in 2012 as the fifth overall selection, Zimmer ripped through the minor leagues in his first two seasons until a promising start was nearly permanently derailed by a parade of injury.

Royals fans know the story by this point: Driveline re-assembled Zimmer’s broken body into a functional pitcher, and Zimmer finally debuted with the club that originally drafted him. But, of course, here’s the sticker: it’s gonna be 2022 in a few months, a whole decade after his selection. Just being able to pitch isn’t enough anymore. Zimmer needs to pitch well, and it’s no guarantee he can.

Quick Stats

  • 54 innings pitched
  • 5.00 ERA
  • 4.70 FIP
  • 13.5% walk rate
  • -0.1 bWAR
  • 36 days missed to IL stints

How Did Zimmer Do in 2021?

First thing’s first, as it always is with Zimmer: his health was a big detriment to his performance. Though the Royals deemed Zimmer healthy in 2019, he was ineffective much of that year as he worked his way back to pitching full time and closed out 2020 on the 60-day injured list with something called “right elbow neuritis.”

All year, Zimmer curiously disappeared from the bullpen rotation for curiously large swatches of time despite the Royals often leaning on their bullpen. Zimmer had four or more days between outings eight different times when he was healthy, which he not always was—Zimmer had two separate IL stints this year, nuking 36 days of his time spent on the active roster.

Now, this didn’t hamper Zimmer’s innings count all that much. Mike Matheny often used Zimmer for more than a single inning, and Zimmer ended up with a respectable 54 innings pitched overall. But you’ve got to wonder if Zimmer can handle a full year’s worth of innings and maintain pitch quality. Consider these two figures:

  • 23 IP, 10.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.57 ERA, 3.18 FIP
  • 23 IP, 9.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.96 ERA, 2.91 FIP

The top figure was Zimmer’s pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. The bottom figure was Zimmer’s first 23 innings this year. When healthy and rested, he’s been pretty good, if not quite as good as his ERA would suggest. But check out this line:

  • 31 IP, 6.7 K/9, 5.9 BB/9, 7.26 ERA, 6.23 FIP

That, dear readers, is his stats from the rest of the year. It was a mess. Zimmer couldn’t strike anyone out and walked everyone.

The weird thing was that, overall, Zimmer’s core pitch figures haven’t changed a lot based on his career. His fastball velo is fine, his slider velo is fine, his curveball velo is fine, and he’s not throwing his pitches at ridiculously different rates. The results just haven’t been there, and the command hasn’t been there.

Zimmer/Zimmer Matchup: Zimmer Wins

I would be remiss not to point out that this was the first year that Kyle Zimmer, pitcher, faced Bradley Zimmer, outfielder, in the big leagues. Round one went to Kyle, who struck out Bradley (though only after immediately surrenduring a three-run homer) in July:

But in September, Bradley got the last laugh, launching a home run against Kyle.

It’s too bad that injuries on both their parts robbed us all of what could have been a wonderful rivalry.

2021 Season Grade for Kyle Zimmer

Depending on your perspective, there are probably a lot of different grades you could give for Zimmer. If you’re one of the people that thinks that any performance at all from Zimmer at the MLB level is amazing considering his injury history, an A is reasonable. On the other hand, if you expected great things from Zimmer after a very nice 2020 and got what we got this year, an F is also reasonable.

As for me, I give Zimmer a C for 2021. There was some good stuff there, but also a lot of bad stuff—the definition of a mixed bag. But you’ve read a few hundred words from me already: what do you think?

Poll

What grade would you give Kyle Zimmer for 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    A
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    B
    (12 votes)
  • 41%
    C
    (119 votes)
  • 46%
    D
    (136 votes)
  • 5%
    F
    (17 votes)
290 votes total Vote Now