by JDCam October 25th 2014
When the baseball season is over. When a refreshing and truly excellent post-season comes to a close, awards season will begin. At this point it is a mere formality that Clayton Kershaw wins his second successive Cy Young award (and most likely an MVP) and deservedly so. Someone who will start to garner more attention from Cy Young voters this year is Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, perhaps the most grossly underrated starting pitcher in all of baseball.
The most impressive thing about Zimmermann is how he just gets better and better. Let’s start with the basics. In 2014, Zimmermann put up career bests (since he has become a full time starter) in win % (.737), WHIP (1.072), HR/9 (0.6), BB/9 (1.3) and SO/9 (8.2). This is elite production and at 28, Zimmermann is yet to enter his pitching prime.
Let’s get into some more stats on Zimmermann. He was 10th in all of baseball with a 5.2 WAR in 2014. He has the majors 7th best FIP at 2.68 and 13th in xFIP at 3.10. Zimmerman did all this with an above average BABIP of .302. How aren’t we raving about this guy? I don’t understand. Zimmerann seems to suffer from being undervalued by others, most evidently by his own manager, the consistently buffoonish Matt Williams.
In game 2 of the Nationals series against the pennant winning San Francisco Giants, a mere 6 days after throwing a no hitter against the surprisingly competitive Florida Marlins, Williams took Zimmerman out of the game in remarkable circumstances. Against the Marlins Zimmeran threw 104 pitches (79 for strikes), struck out 10, and walked one in a game that was near perfection. Against the Giants Zimmermann was incredible again. He has pitched 8.2 innings of shut out ball before walking promising Giants 2B joe Panik. Bizareely, with the game on the line and his unappreciated ace working on 17 2/3 shut out innings, Williams took Zimmermann out of the game in favor of injury prone closer Drew Storen. After a Buster Posey single and a Pablo Sandoval double, the game was tied. San Francisco went on to win in 18 innings and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the best of 5 series.
For me, Williams decision is a puzzle I still have not managed to solve. Consider the situation. Your bona fide ace (yes over Strasburg) throws a no hitter. The next game (a crucial playoff start) he throws 8 2/3 innings of 3 hit ball. He has dominated the Giants lineup comfortably. He walks a man in the 9th, with two men down and he is taken out. SHOCKING! Just a shocking managerial decision! What does Zimmermann have to do to stay in the game? How could you possibly pull Zimmermann, in the midst of one of the most impressive streaks of his career for Storen (an injury prone, streakily dominant closer). I cannot wrap my head around the level of stupidity. The Nationals had a legitimate opportunity to win this year with a great rotation in which Gio Gonzalez was a number 4. Jordan Zimmerann is, without question the best pitcher in this potentially dominant group. Next year, his salary of $16.5 million will be richly deserved. He will undoubtedly be of the best available starters in a deep free agent starter class that boasts David Price and Mat Latos. I’m sure the Nationals will try to re-up Zimmerman in the off-season or during 2015. If I was him, I’d be testing the market to find a club that truly appreciated my value.