Jordan Zimmermann has been absolutely incredible for the Nationals this season despite his 7-6 record. With continued success and reliability on the mound, Zimmermann might just be the one to seal the Nationals' fate for a run at the pennant come October. (Image Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE)

Why Jordan Zimmermann is the Key to the Nationals' Playoff Chances

It’s been nearly a week since “The Game” that shocked all of baseball and put thousands of utterly embarrassed Nationals fans into hiding last Friday night.  Yes, you know which “game” I’m talking about—the one that Stephen Strasburg started against the Braves on his 24th birthday.  Bloggers, bandwagoners, and casual fans alike thought this might be it for the Washington Nationals.  Could it possibly be a repeat performance of the 2005 season that saw our DC club tailspin into last place after dominating the league through July?  Even with that lingering possibility and further the loss of All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond to the DL, the Nats have been absolutely sensational ever since.  As of Thursday morning, they’ve gone 5-1 since that game and the starting pitching has been as dominant as ever.

For better or worse, I don’t believe we can write in our ticket to the playoffs quite yet—there are still over 60 games left this season.  While the Nationals’ starting rotation has been the best in baseball since early April, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler, and even Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg have had their slipups at times.  However, there’s one guy in this rotation that’s been arguably the most reliable pitcher, let alone Nationals’ starter, in the big leagues in 2012–Mr. Jordan Zimmermann.

People have tended to forget about “the other Zimmermann” this season as he finished May with a dismal 3-5 record.  However, fans closely following the Nats realized Zimmermann’s ERA never even pushed 3.00 at that point and it became increasingly clear and disappointing that this guy received virtually no run support in any of his early starts.

I am thrilled to report that ever since a 2-1 loss at Baltimore on June 22, Zimmermann has gone 4-0 in his last four starts and now sports the 5th-lowest ERA in the MLB at 2.31.  His WHIP is also 9th-lowest of all qualifying pitchers this year at 1.07.  Coming out of the All-Star Break, manager Davey Johnson decided to bump Zimmermann to number one in the rotation for a few reasons, mainly to give ace Strasburg a few extra days of rest and prolong his 160 innings limit as much as possible down the line.  Nonetheless, I truly believe Jordan Zimmermann is the new ace of this staff, and his continued reliability will be PARAMOUNT if the Nationals want to go deep into the playoffs in 2012.

Zimmermann has played with this franchise the longest of any starter in the rotation, and his leadership alone has proven to give this team newfound energy coming out of the Break.  We’re talking about a starter who has given up ONE earned run in his last 18 innings.  It’s also not ordinary that a guy will go at least 6.0 innings into a game in his first 20 starts of a season, but Jordan has done just that and more.

Not many would think a 2007 amateur prospect from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point would eventually stir and excite a fan base quite like DC’s.  Nevertheless, if Jordan Zimmermann continues to play the way he has been recently, the Nationals could find themselves in a great spot come, dare I say it, October.

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