Sometimes what makes a baseball player successful is simple. Tony Zych has a fastball that is 93-96 mph and runs horizontally in on right-handed hitters. It was good enough to freeze Adam Rosales and win a game that Tuffy Gosewisch played in.
That pitch is paired with a slider so devastating it was labeled Satan’s Frisbee, and aptly so.
There are many reasons why there are more strikeouts than ever in baseball these days, but pitchers like Zych are a major reason. The ability to come in for one inning and throw maximum effort for maximum movement and velocity paved a pathway to the majors for guys like Zych who lacked the stamina to start. Unfortunately, the value of these players has resulted in the push for more players to emulate this min-maxed style of pitching, and for guys like Zych, the cost is often their health. The Mariners have seen several players in Zych’s image struggle with health in the last few years - Zych, Carson Smith, and Shae Simmons all work with similar fastball-slider heavy repertoires and violent, high effort motions that make them electric when healthy, but seem to result in a frustrating struggle to maintain that health.
That struggle with health led to a slow start this spring, which led to more setbacks, which led, sadly, to today.
Reliever Tony Zych placed on waivers for unconditional release by Mariners. Pitched 70 games over last 3 years, but just never could overcome lingering arm issues.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) March 10, 2018
Zych’s release is surprising in the sense that players with talent and minor league options are rarely released, but his single-inning profile and struggles with health always made him a slightly tougher fit with this roster than in years past. Still, the fact that he was not simply DFA’d and sent to Tacoma to rehab slowly and work at his own pace signifies an even sadder possibility - that this may be the end of the road for Zych and his finicky arm. Jake Mailhot called him the Swing King, Jeff Sullivan called him the Mariners’ Secret Weapon. To rudely steal an anecdote from our own Isabelle Minasian, the wide-eyed Zych was one of the most welcoming individuals in the Mariners’ clubhouse during her first ever credentialed times as a reporter.
No group of players are more prone to meteoric rises and plummets to anonymity than relief pitchers, but I think Tony Zych is worth remembering, and I hope he finds another shot somewhere. If not, Zych should have plenty of time to dedicate to his other love - hunting.
Good luck to Tony, here’s hoping Satan’s Frisbee gets a few more spins.