Jordan Zimmermann’s non-existent two-seam fastball

In today’s Post, we take a look at all-star right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and his relationship with Auburndale, Wisc., the farming town with a population of 738 where he grew and still lives. The place shaped his work ethic and his straight-ahead demeanor. His high school coach said he can see the town’s work ethic in his stoic face during games.

The no-frills place he’s from reflects Zimmermann’s pitching style. He pounds the strike zone mostly with straight fastballs. He has thrown more sliders early in the count this year, and he has made well-documented improvement with his changeup. (Zimmermann’s battle to find a change-up is evidently not new. When I spoke with his high school coach on the phone, he said, “I could never get him to throw a change-up.”)

This brings us to an interesting tidbit we’ve been meaning to get around to. Since there was no baseball last night and you have surely grown tired of your spouse and children while waiting for me, now seems like the right time to share.

When you examine the breakdown of Zimmermann’s pitches this season, an anomaly jumps out. Our pal Harry Pavlidis first noticed it. According to Pitch FX, Zimmermann has thrown a two-seam fastball on 1.5 percent of his pitches this season.

Back in late May, Zimmermann explained the pitch tracking system had erred. Sometimes, he said, he can get inside a four-seam fastball. His hand will turn slightly out as he releases it. The movement causes the pitch to run away from right-handed hitters. It may behave like a two-seamer. But it is not.

“I’ve thrown maybe two two-seamers my whole life,” Zimmermann said. “It’s all four-seamers. I throw it up-and-in. I throw it down and away. The four corners of the strike zone, I just locate those four corners. Don’t just live in one zone. You got to bust the guy in and change eye levels. I’ve been able to do that so far.”

Many pitchers would accept a pitch moving more than they expected as manna from heaven. Zimmermann works to avoid it. “It’s nothing I want to do,” he said. “I don’t want to make it run and sink and whatever. I have no accuracy when I’m doing that.”

In lieu of the two-seamer, Zimmermann uses variety with his four-seamer to keep hitters off balance. He feels comfortable throwing the fastball to any corner of the strike zone. He feels more comfortable and effective forcing a hitter to cover the entire zone and guard against precise fastballs.

“You got to bust the guy in and change eye levels,” Zimmermann said. “I’ve been able to do that so far. When I’m getting inside the ball and it’s running, I don’t have the command and feel or anything. When I’m staying behind, my four-seamer is pretty straight. I just feel like I can locate it a lot better.”

When his delivery slips, though, it can fool even those most familiar with him. One day early this season, he threw a fastball down to the middle and up to Juan Francisco, then with the Braves. The ball took off running. In the dugout, catcher Kurt Suzuki asked him, “Did you throw a two-seamer there?”

Zimmermann replied no, he had not.

“I’ve never thrown one in my life,” Zimmermann said. “I don’t really want to change now.”

FROM THE POST

Jordan Zimmmermann was shaped by tiny Auburndale, Wisc., and he has not allowed the rest of the world to change him.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Tulo endorses Desmond

Harper, Zimmermann savor all-star experience

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse was on all-star break. Zach Walters went 1 for 4 and played shortstop in the Class AAA all-star game.

New Britain 4, Syracuse 3: Rick Hague went 1 for 4 with a double. Steve Souza went 1 for 4 with a double. Taylor Hill allowed two earned runs in six innings on eight hits and a walk, striking out two.

Potomac 2, Lynchburg 1: Michael Taylor went 4 for 4 with two doubles. Adrian Sanchez went 3 for 3 with a double. Blake Schwartz allowed one run in six innings on five hits and no walks, striking out three.

Hickory 6, Hagerstown 0: Brett Mooneyham allowed five runs in five innings on five hits and three walks, striking out five. Stephen Perez went 1 for 3. The Suns managed only two hits.

Auburn 3, Tri-City 1: Jake Johansen allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings on three hits and two walks, striking out six. Johansen, the Nationals’ first draft pick this year, has a 1.04 ERA with 19 strikeouts, 12 walks and five hits allowed in his first 17 1/3 professional innings. Cody Gunter went 2 for 4. Issac Ballou went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.
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Adam Kilgore · July 17, 2013

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