You watch these major leaguers - ANY of them - take a 90 MPH fastball in the short ribs. Or in the shoulder blade. Or off the elbow. And they kinda growl, and take four seconds, and then go on with their lives. The average major leaguer compared to the average guy on the street? Joe Mainstreet, hit in the shoulder blade with a 90 MPH fastball, would probably think he'd been sniped and had had four seconds to LIVE. The pain tolerance of ballplayers, man.
But catchers especially. You see them take 90, even 95, foul tips right off their masks and just adjust the mask. YOU put on a mask and let me hit you in it with a sledgehammer? The kinetic energy has got to be about the same.
But Mike Zunino? He takes HBP's as well as any Mariner since 1977, as well as any ballplayer active right now. He won't even duck the pitch if he's well able to duck it; he'll just stand there, take the shot, and not flinch in the slightest. He'll just trot calmly (not in a buzzed way, just calmly) down to take his base.
I've always loved Gentlemen Samurai. It looks like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths; talking to them, it's like talking to your friendly aunt. But when there is killing to be done, they won't even change expression. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee ... Russell Wilson. Captain America, who at one time was a bit of an ideal. Who wouldn't root for him? Wait, don't answer that ... :- )
If Mike Zunino becomes a star, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Would love to see it happen for him.
EDGAR. IS. GOOD.
At the 0:15 mark of this video you see Zuumball's second (!) homer Monday. Note the high hand position. Note the weight sink. Note the "chop down" on the ball, old school. Note Zunino hit the bottom half of the ball despite the chop. Note the top hand release. Note the shortness to the ball.
Here is Edgar's grand slam off Jeff Nelson in 2000. LOL. Oh, sorry, we meant this grand slam off Wetteland, the one to center in 1995, like Zuumball's last night. Oh! Here is Edgar's 3-run shot in game 4 of the 1995 series, a "sweep" of an inside pitch to left, like Zuumball's first homer Monday. Especially on the slo-mo replay, notice the shortness of Edgar's path to the ball.
As senseis go, you could do worse than Edgar Martinez, it seems.
Here's a good read from Josh Horton at MLB.com, boggling over Zunino's hot roll. Zunino names Matt Holliday as an influence. Holliday also uses a quiet body, a weight sink, and a short stroke to take advantage of natural power. Holliday isn't as prone to attack the bottom half of the ball, however, doesn't get the effortless flyball ratio that Zunino gets.
Which is why it's so easy to get excited over Zunino's potential. If he barrels the ball AT ALL the tendency is a deep fly ball without his thinking about it.
Zuumball was recalled on May 23, actually. He had a terrible first 5 games; here's the game log. In the 18 games since, he's slashing .406/.465/.859. Having watched Zunino the last three weeks, it's a little sobering to realize that Barry Bonds had 4 straight years with a higher OPS than that ...
True, Zunino has a 4:25 EYE over those three weeks and a BABIP of .550. Of course nobody is accusing Zunino of having become a .400 hitter with 70 homers a year. But if his Edgar approach can give him a .250 average with 30 homers a year ...
MOST COMPARABLE HITTERS
There have always been a few of these guys around, 0.18-0.28 EYE ratios with immense natural power and lift. Mark Trumbo types. Zunino's incredible hot streak does not make you wonder if he's going to bat .300; it makes you wonder if he can become Trumbo, because the Mark Trumbos of the game have always had 30-RBI months.
Trumbo himself, in 2011-13, would post an EYE of .23 and would knock in 87, 95, 100 runs. His career has had ups and downs. But if he'd been a catcher, he'd have been a real star.
Other players with terrible EYE ratios and natural power: Bo Jackson (LOL), Adam Jones, Jim Presley the old Mariners 3B, Mike Morse. Alfonso Soriano would hit 35 homers with 30 walks. Pete Incaviglia.
But maybe Evan Gattis is one of the best comps for Zunino's UP scenario? Here is his b-ref card. Gattis also has the mammoth easy power and the air-conditioner whiff approach. He hits .250 with 30 homers.
It's not MANY batters who can run a horrible EYE ratio and still hit well. Zunino's effortless power may allow him that career path - if Edgar has anything to say about it.