Jordan Zimmermann: National League Ranking


Sep 28, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (center) is congratulated by catcher Wilson Ramos (right) and Kevin Frandsen (19) after recording the final out of a no-hitter against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the month, we will be ranking each Nationals starter and a couple of bench players to see where they rank at their positions in the National League. Earlier this week, we ranked Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. Today we will be continuing our series with one of the Nationals pitchers, Jordan Zimmermann.

In these rankings, we will be using statistics from the last two seasons to give us a bigger sample size – to see just how good Nationals players are. In this effort, we will see which parts of the team need to be fixed and which are solid compared to the rest of the league. The first step for the Nationals is to win the division, so if any National League East player comes across in our findings, we will be sure to point it out. If not, the main goal is winning the National League Pennant and going to the World Series.

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I will analyze both standard and advanced pitching statistics. This will give us a full picture of who the best players are at that position. To put the players in some type of order, we will be using WAR. That gives us a baseline to start the analysis.

The top-five National League pitchers according to FanGraphs by WAR over the last two seasons are Clayton Kershaw (WAR 13.8), Adam Wainwright (WAR 10.9), Jordan Zimmermann (WAR 8.8), Cole Hamels (WAR 7.9) and fellow National Stephen Strasburg (WAR 7.6).

Jordan is right up there with innings pitched with the other five WAR leaders, despite the few starts he has missed due to minor injuries. Zimmermann has pitched 413 innings in the last two years. Adam Wainwright leads the pack with 468.2 innings pitched, followed by Kershaw with 434.1 (pretty incredible with the amount of time he missed in 2014), Hamels at 424.2 and then Strasburg with 398.

Percentages of walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed, ERA, ground balls, left on base, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and FIP (fielder independent pitching) are the current statistics used to try to compare pitchers to each other and parse out performance.

Number of wins for a pitcher isn’t a particularly helpful statistic, because a pitcher’s win total depends upon his team’s hitting, whether the other starter was quality or not, whether the bullpen blows a lead, and quality of defense.

Using at least 50 games pitched, which indicates two years of starts in the league, Jordan Zimmermann has great stats compared to all NL starters. Note that any pitcher that spent time in the AL over the last two years (Doug Fister, for example) is not included in the stats list because they did not pitch in the NL over the last two years.

In terms of walk percentage, Zimmermann is the best in the NL over the last two years, with a bases on balls percentage over nine innings of 1.50. Rounding out the top five is Adam Wainwright (1.63), Dan Haren (1.70), Clayton Kershaw (1.72) and Kyle Lohse (1.84). No other pitcher in the NL is under 2.0 bases on balls per nine innings over the last two years.

The home runs per nine innings contest over the last two years was won by Clayton Kershaw (0.41), followed by Adam Wainwright (0.48), Lance Lynn (0.60), Hyun-Jin Ryu (0.60), Gio Gonzalez (0.69), A.J. Burnett (0.69) and Jordan Zimmermann (0.70).

ERA is a pitching statistic with which everyone is familiar. Clayton Kershaw has the best ERA at 1.80, followed by Adam Wainwright (2.67), Zack Greinke (2.68), Madison Bumgarner (2.88) and Zimmermann (2.96). No other NL pitcher with two years in the league has an ERA under 3.00.

BABIP leaders for the last two years are Clayton Kershaw (.263), Shelby Miller (.266), Kyle Lohse (.272), Madison Bumgarner (.275) and Julio Teheran (.277). Jordan is tenth on the list, with an average of .286.

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FIP measures what a pitcher can control. It includes walks, hit by pitch, strikeouts and home runs. It’s a measure of a pitcher’s overall performance. In this category, again the statistics show that Zimmermann is one of the best in the league over the past two years. The FIP leader list is Clayton Kershaw (2.12), Adam Wainwright (2.71), Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.97), Zimmermann (3.03) and Madison Bumgarner (3.05).

The only statistics where Zimmermann is not in the top ten are strikeouts, ground ball percentage and left on base percentage. Zimmermann ranks 17th out of NL starters in strikeout ratio, 20th in ground balls and 14th in left on base percentage.

Zimmermann averages 7.47 strikeouts per nine innings. Stephen Strasburg is number one on the list with 9.79 strikeouts per nine innings, followed by Clayton Kershaw (9.76), Gio Gonzalez (8.99), Madison Bumgarner (8.99) and A.J. Burnett (8.87). In the case of Burnett, gaudy strikeout numbers haven’t led to wins, of which he has 18 wins versus 29 losses in two years.

In terms of ground ball percentage, the league leaders over the last two years are A.J. Burnett (53.4%), Wily Peralta (52.3%), Wade Miley (51.6%), Mike Leake (51.1%) and Yovani Gallardo (50.0%) Everyone else in the league is under fifty percent, and Zimmermann’s percentage is 44.1.

The statistics for left on base percentage are very tightly bunched among the players. The player with the best percentage in this category is (no surprise) Kershaw at 81.0. Right behind him is battery mate Greinke at 80.2. The rest of the top five are Julio Teheran (78.3), Shelby Miller (78.3) and Dillon Gee (77.3). Jordan’s percentage is 75.1.

I will not compare National League and American League pitchers in any statistical category other than WAR. With the use of the DH in the AL, pitching statistics are tough to compare across the two leagues with the pitcher batting (or bunting) in one league and not the other.

In terms of WAR, Jordan is number 11 on the list in comparing all major league pitchers over the past two years. The top five Major League pitchers in terms of WAR have been Clayton Kershaw (13.8), Felix Hernandez (12.0), Max Scherzer (12.0), Adam Wainwright (10.9) and Chris Sale (10.6). Zimmerman’s WAR is 8.8 for the last two years.

Zimmerman’s WAR number is better than the following pitchers: Greinke, Justin Verlander, James Shields, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, and Lance Lynn, and tons of other Major League starters.

Clayton Kershaw is clearly the best pitcher on the planet, but Zimmermann is nipping at his heels.