The Other Zimmerman(n)
Ryan Zimmerman has long been the name best associated with the Washington Nationals. For years, he was easily the most recognizable player, his Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger Awards helping him stand out as the clear-cut favorite to be recognized in a ballpark outside of Washington.
While he remains the most well-established and longest-tenured star on the club, with young stars like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg joining him in the forefront, Zimmerman can now lean on those around him to help carry the load, both on and off the field. And so, in typical Zimmerman fashion, his contributions on Monday night were overshadowed by other headlines, his three RBI and solid defense at third base pushed down the page.
Meanwhile, after a year of ceding various accolades to rotation-mates Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann’s eye-opening start to the 2013 campaign has suddenly thrust him into the spotlight.
Just how good has he been? Few pitchers would see their ERA rise after allowing just two runs over 7.2 innings of work, but that’s exactly what happened to Zimmermann on Monday night. His 1.69 ERA now sits just .25 behind NL-leader Matt Harvey of the Mets, fifth-best in the National League on the young season. His effort still earned him his league-high seventh win as well, but there’s another, more obscure category in which he also leads every pitcher in the sport.
Zimmermann’s 13.26 pitches per inning are the fewest of any starting pitcher in baseball. Couple that with his quick reset on the mound between deliveries, and he gives his defense the shortest amount of time possible standing out at their positions. The less time the Nationals spend on the field, the more they spend at the plate, putting additional pressure on the opposing pitcher.
Shorter innings also equal longer starts for the 26-year-old, who has worked at least seven innings in six of his eight starts. In comparison, he only lasted that late into a game nine times in 32 starts in 2012. A longer outing takes pressure off the bullpen, meaning fewer opportunities for the opposing offense to catch a reliever on a bad day or have the chance to exploit a matchup.
Though not obvious, flashy statistics, they create a recipe for success that, just like Zimmermann’s mid-90’s heater, can sneak past you before you have time to adjust. If the rest of Zimmermann’s season is anything like these first eight starts, he’ll have a chance to do what Strasburg and Gonzalez did last season: pitch in the Midsummer Classic in July.
Regardless of what accolades he receives, fans around the league ought to start learning the name of the Nationals newest superstar. The adjustment should be easy – just add another “N.”