Jordan Zimmermann’s Hidden Season

Somewhere lost between the “Doug Fister is the man” and “Stephen Strasburg is the most disappointing disappointment that’s ever disappointed” talk lies the fact that Jordan Zimmermann has had a great season. If you’re a believer in fWAR, and if you’re reading this blog then you probably are, then you’re likely to buy into its analysis that Jordan Zimmermann has been the second best non-Kershaw pitcher in the NL and the best pitcher on the Nationals. Now if you aren’t a believer in advanced stats then maybe if you’re only looking at ERA you’d believe that Fister and Roark are better than Jordan Zimmermann, but Zimmermann has a 2.97 ERA which is very good and his win/loss record of 8-5 isn’t bad either if you pay attention to those sorts of things.

The Doug Fister vs. Stephen Strasburg debate, as stupid as it is since they are both very good pitchers on the Nationals and the Nationals will need them both if they hope to advance deep in the playoffs, can be framed two ways. It is either a debate over the FIP based fWAR vs. the RA9 based bWAR. By fWAR Stephen Strasburg is much better than Doug Fister and by bWAR Fister is much better than Stephen Strasburg. It is also a debate of advanced stats like FIP vs. ERA. Doug Fister’s 2.20 ERA is preposterously low it is more than a full run less than his career average ERA of 3.36. So even if you aren’t a FIP believer then you’d still have to understand that an ERA that far below career averages is unsustainable. Stephen Strasburg is almost the reverse, but his 2014 ERA of 3.41 is only slightly off from his career average of 3.09 while his 2014 FIP of 3.00 is very close to his career 2.85 FIP.

There is no debate with Jordan Zimmermann. His 2.97 ERA is in line with his 2.80 FIP and both Zimmermann’s ERA and FIP are lower than they were in 2013 when he won 19 games and was everyone’s favorite starter on the Nationals. Jordan Zimmermann is having the best season of his career and it has largely been ignored because all of the focus has been on has been on how great Fister is or how terrible Strasburg is, and it is odd. Jordan Zimmermann has done nothing to be ignored.

Every fifth day Jordan Zimmermann takes the ball and puts the Nationals in a position to win and while his individual record is only 8-5 the Washington Nationals are 16-9 in games he has started. Jordan Zimmermann is averaging fewer innings pitched per start than Fister but he is still averaging six innings a start. If someone is so inclined to mention Doug Fister as the best pitcher on the Nationals then they should at the very least list Jordan Zimmermann ahead of Tanner Roark.

Consider for a second that Clayton Kershaw doesn’t exist. The top three pitchers in the NL by fWAR would now be Wainwright, Zimmermann, and Cueto and they all would be very close. It would be a big debate leading to many columns and raising the stock of all three pitchers. But because Clayton Kershaw does exist there isn’t any need to talk about the Cy Young race at all. It is over and Clayton Kershaw should be mentioned more with Sandy Koufax and Greg Maddux than Adam Wainwright and Jordan Zimmermann. Both of those latter two are great pitchers of the current era while Clayton Kershaw is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career and into the debate as to who is the greatest pitcher of all time.

Of course that is on the national level. At the local level of Nats fans who only pay attention to the Nationals it is very odd that Jordan Zimmermann is completely ignored. He’s having the best season of his career and Nats fans would much rather talk about how Doug Fister is the most truest Ace and Stephen Strasburg should be left off the playoff roster. All Jordan Zimmermann has done this season is pitch better than anyone on the Washington Nationals and no one cares, because he isn’t the fresh new face like Doug Fister or the number one draft pick who should have already won ten Cy Youngs.

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