He’s not flashy. He certainly doesn’t command the highlight reel breaking balls of Kershaw or the blazing fastballs of Strasburg. He’s not married to a supermodel, and he certainly doesn’t have an underwear line. But Jordan Zimmermann is a better pitcher than any other on the Washington Nationals rotation, so it’s time for him to be given that role.
For years, the Nationals have been waiting on Stephen Strasburg to have his breakout season. The season where he would come every day and give the Nationals a great chance to win, no matter what the situation was. But for the past two seasons, he has not been that pitcher. Not to say a bad pitcher, not even to say he’s not very, very good. Zimmermann has simply been better.
Jordan Zimmermann has proven his excellence on every stage his offense has given him the opportunity to perform on. Whether it was the three up, three struck out inning of NLDS Game Four in 2012, 8.2 scoreless in this year’s NLDS, his no-hitter, or his consistent performances every fifth day all season long. He had exactly eight games where he gave up more than three runs. There were three games where he didn’t reach the fifth. Batters posted a .244 average against him. But the numbers don’t speak alone.
As a Nationals fan, when you see Zimmermann is the probable pitcher for that day, there is a mutual feeling among everyone watching the game or at the ballpark; it doesn’t matter what team is playing, it doesn’t matter if the lineup is stacked to the brim with lefties – Jordan Zimmermann is going to give you a start that gives the Nationals a very good chance to win.
And yet Mike Rizzo seems like he is refusing to make the move to put Zimmermann in the spot he earned, in the role of the ace, and instead is keeping Strasburg, and waiting for him to develop.
2015 will be Strasburg’s 6th season in the Major Leagues. It took Kershaw three seasons to find his ace role. It took Felix Hernandez three seasons. Strasburg is, among his peers, overdue. And at one point, Strasburg will develop into the role of the ace. However, why would the Nationals keep their best pitcher from pitching their biggest games? The time to treat Strasburg as a bright eyed and bushy tailed rookie straight up from Syracuse that needs experience is long gone. Zimmermann is an ace-caliber pitcher that simply shows up with his best stuff in big situations, and knows how to pitch without his best stuff.
The Nationals cannot go through seasons having big games and not having their best pitcher in the starting spot ; it is time to pull the trigger and put Jordan Zimmermann in the ace roll.