Nationals Baseball: Every game is a hard one for Jordan Zimmermann

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Every game is a hard one for Jordan Zimmermann

ZNN doesn't know how to win. That must be it, right? It's not that the team won't score runs for him. No. He just hasn't learned to pitch to the game. He's anti-clutch. Trade him for John Lackey! That guy is 12-9 despite an ERA close to 6! The new Jack Morris!

In all seriousness, part of Jordan must be happy he'll be hanging up the spikes in a start or two given the grief he gets put through every start. He has the 11th worst run support in the majors. Take away SF (3 in the Top 9) and Seattle (3 in the Top 12) and you could call him the 6th most unluckiest pitcher out of the teams you expect to score runs this year. He by far gets the worst support on the Nationals (Livan gets the 2nd least support and he's 41st in the league). But it's a funny type of lack of support.

In 15 of Zimmermann's 25 starts the Nats have scored 3 or fewer runs. That may seem like a lot (and it is) but it actually isn't too out of line with what we'd expect. The Nats have scored 3 or fewer runs 64 times this season in 127 games, or roughly half (side note: ugh). Given an equal distribution of bad luck we'd expect Jordan to have 12-13 games of this type. Fifteen is a tiny bit high but not a crazy number.

Where the problem lies is at the other end. The Nats have scored 7 or more runs 21 times this year. You'd expect that they'd have done it about 4 times for Jordan. How many times have they done it? Once. And it was the infamous 14 inning how-many-saves can we blow White Sox game. A game where they had 0 runs after 7 innings and 3 after 9. The Nats never make it easy on Jordan.

Take a look at the 9 games the Nats scored 4-6 runs when Jordan was pitching. You can argue that 4 runs should be enough to win a well-pitched game. In what inning did they end up scoring that 4th run?

1st: 0
2nd: 0
3rd: 0
4th: 1
5th: 2
6th: 2
7th: 1
8th: 3

Basically the Nats never staked Jordan to an early lead. Even when scoring a decent amount of runs. Every game is tight one for ZNN. I'm kind of glad the Nats are shutting him down. These have been 160 tough innings.


Donald said...

Good post. I'm excited about the Nats rotation next year and beyond. They have 3-4 prospects that project as a #1 or #2. If just one of them pans out they could have 3 starting pitchers that are legitimate aces. They could have one of the best staffs in baseball, even compared against the Phillies.

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

I agree with your last sentence that it has been 160 tough innings for ZNN and he has got to be one of the unluckiest when it comes to lack of run support. Last night was a nice duel for about 6 innings, but what was up with trying to bunt Ramos to third with no outs? Just swing away he is a pretty decent hitter afterall. But no, he then spends the inning on the basepaths instead of taking care of his arm in the dugout...what a waste (strike one Davey). Next inning you could tell he was getting tired as his control started to wane. So why send McCatty out there at all? His PC was already in the high 90's. Yes I know, ZNN made the HR pitch, yes I know it was probably his last home game pitching, and on the other hand it was meaningless whether he wins or loses this game right? So, I put the blame on Davey Johnson's head for the loss as he should have yanked him right after walking Young (strike two-ish).

And of course we were doomed once the mighty Alex Cora stepped up to the plate. Although I don't know what other options there are (strike three?).

Regardless, ZNN is a fine young pitcher with a great demeanor, and in spite of his bad luck, has been my favorite this year to watch. Depending on how SB sets the table for next year during his call-up, I think ZNN will #3 or #2 next year. Like Donald, I'm excited to see how things shape up for next year as well.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, good ole Jordan "I'm 2-1 when I give up 0 ER (in 6 starts)" Zimmermann.

He stills seems forgotten among some fans and media alike, but this guy was Strasburg before there was a Strasburg.

I can't wait until next season (perhaps 2013 more so) when we get our own version of King Felix & Pineda, or Price & Shields, or for the old school fans, Spahn & Sain...

Donald said...

Do you know how many Nats pitching prospects project to a #1, or #2? I think that list would include Purke, Alex Meyer, Peacock, Robbie Ray. Is that right? Are there others?

Wally said...

I think that if you want to measure psychological impact, it is even worse. IIRC, there were a few games where he even had a 1 or 2 run lead when he left, and they blew it. Sometimes even givign him the loss when a reliever let in his runners.

I am too lazy to look that up though, and I wouldn't want to learn any facts that would disprove my narrative.

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Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Good article on in WAPO on this very subject. It takes a different viewpoint than "Froggy", one that I agree with. Jordan has to learn to "win" i.e. work through trouble, not give up the HR. How many times did the NATS have Kennedy on the ropes, and he pitched out of it. Davey wanted Jordan to work through it, the way he let Detwiler the previous night. As for the bunt, Jordan has to make that bunt--Livo would have done so. As for next season, run support should be more plentiful.

Marc said...

Nice post, Harper. The last few years, the Nats always seem to have one starter who they don't do anything for - the added wrinkle of this particular Nats team to not really show up until the middle to late innings makes it that much worse.

Interesting (to me anyway) related question: How many times have the Nats really jumped out to early leads? It seems to me that lots of their wins have been of the down 3-1, win 4-3 in the 7th, 8th, 9th variety. I know the pundits like to talk about that as proof of their gritty veteran gritvet grinder grit, but really, what's wrong with getting up 5-0?

As for your "ugh" side note - that's the task of this offseason. The pitching looks to be rounding into shape, but the offense is just terrible. There'll be some uptick from a full season of Zim, some regression to the mean for Werth, but I don't see a lot of other places to improve drastically - especially if Morse ends up being more like an .800-.820 OPS player and not a 900-920 OPS like he is this year. There's not a lot of gaping holes to plug into - regardless of whether you like Desmond or not, he's the obvious candidate to move to make room for a higher OBP player, as is the CF mess.

Harper said...

Donald - thing is pretty much every high round starter pick is going to project to be a #1 / #2 at first. It's not so much as "project" that early on as it is what's the best case scenario. Both Detwiler and Smoker were at this level. (McGeary was probably more of a 2/3 at best) So yeah they have a bunch, (you could add Cole and Solis if you wanted) but so do a lot of teams. The important thing is how many still rate out like that with a year in High A at least under their belt.

Froggy - I can't get worked up over Davey's decisions just yet. At this point he's going to draw out pitchers to see what they can do. If he's still making these choices in games that matter then I'd be worried. As for Cora - Rizzo hasn't given him the best bench so you just have to shrug.

Anon - It could be pretty special. At the very least they'll have 2 of their top 3 spots taken care of with guys Nats fans can expect to watch for years. Hate to say "wait till next year" but wait till next year!

Wally - to support you I will also not look it up and say it happened in 20 of his 25 starts. Man! That's terrible!

Harper said...

Sec 204 - I agree sorta. I don't like the use of win even in quotes because he pitches well enough to win now. It's not about that at all and to even say it as a euphemism can lead people to think the wrong thing about ZNN.

What it is about is maintaining composure late in games where he doesn't have his best stuff. It's about becoming a great pitcher as opposed to a good/very good one. Last couple of starts, late in the year, late in games, he has shown a disturbing tendency to get hit hard. He has to learn to make the pitches that will turn those homers and XBH into singles and walks. If he doesn't have it he's gonna get hit but it doesn't have to be that hard.

Marc - you know I bet it just works out that way for every team. It would be strange if the scoring even outs perfectly.

Don't know about the lead thing. Have to think about if I can look that up. I can tell you they usually do lead by at least a run after 3, but by the end of 4 they are usually down.

The "no hole" thing is what makes CF a priority and Desmond so easy to move. The offense isn't good right now - but what do you fix? Not Zimm, Morse, Werth, Danny or Wilson. I guess you can just wash your hands at LaRoche but I'd expect them to try to fix CF or get a better hitting SS first.