When asked to name players on the Washington Nationals, how many names come to mind? Five, maybe six, probably including names like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth? How many names does one rattle off before you get to Jordan Zimmermann?
Too many, that’s probably the number most would agree on. For the past few seasons, Zimmermann has pitched in the shadow of Strasburg and in the shadow of just about every other pitcher in the majors, quietly becoming one of the league’s most consistent starters. Zimmermann pitched to the same post-Tommy John innings limit Strasburg did, but it was the latter’s that was criticized and ballyhooed. Zimmermann had suffered from poor run support for most of his young career, and thus never got the credit he deserved.
Everything is different for Zimmermann this season, however. Zimmermann currently leads the NL in wins, seventh in innings pitched, thirteenth in WHIP, and ranks in the top 20 in batting average against and ERA. He has one less loss than Strasburg and basically has doubled his win total. Overall, Zimmermann is 18-8 with a 3.33 ERA, his wins being a far and away career high. Of his thirty starts, Zimmermann has pitched less than five innings twice, made it to the sixth inning four times and pitched past the sixth inning 19 times. Zimmermann also has a complete game this season and has walked more than two batters in a game three times. His ERA may be a little higher than fans are used to, but Zimmermann has been exactly what we are used to seeing and now he has the wins to back it up.
What is sad about Zimmermann’s season is it probably will not end with him earning the NL Cy Young Award.
Zimmermann’s stiffest competition most likely will be Los Angeles Dodgers left hander Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, a stud in his own right, has four less wins than Zimmermann but leads the Majors with a 1.94 ERA. Kershaw leads the league in innings pitched, strikeouts and is second in batting average against. Kershaw has not pitched less than five innings all season, but he has walked more than two batters eight times this season.
The biggest reason why Zimmermann probably will not win the Cy Young is that Kershaw stands to finish with the lowest ERA for a starting pitcher in almost 30 years. Kershaw is also coming off a season where he won the same amount of games he has won thus far this season with a 2.53 ERA and finished second in the voting, ahead of 21 game winner Gio Gonzalez. Kershaw’s Dodgers also sit with a magic number of four to clinch the NL West and have lived up to expectations after a slow start, quite unlike Zimmermann’s Nationals.
Zimmermann is baseball’s best pitcher many still do not know about. If things go right, that could end this winter, with Zimmermann taking home a Cy Young award he very much deserves. Sadly, it’s more likely Zimmermann finishes as a finalist for the award, but does not win. Kershaw has the trump card with a much more team independent stat, his ERA. A pitcher can win 20 games any given year, but it all depends on what the team does for that pitcher each day they pitch. An ERA is much more independent of the team, because the pitcher puts the runners on, and even though Kershaw has walked many more batters, he’s kept them where he puts them.
Zimmermann will win a Cy Young and has the resume to win one this year, but sadly, he will not because of his disappointing team and one other player’s dominant one.