Nationals: Looking Back At Jordan Zimmermann’s Legacy
Jordan Zimmermann was a rock for the Washington Nationals. What kind of legacy did he leave behind in D.C.?
The Washington Nationals have not always been at the forefront of playoff contention discussions. As most of the readers of this site know (or at least I hope they do), the Nats endured more than a few tough seasons before breaking onto the scene in 2012. While nobody wants to go through six straight losing seasons, hanging out in the basement of the National League does have its benefits.
When fans and analysts discuss players that Washington was able to draft during their years of poor performance, names that are often thrown around include the likes of Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, and even Ross Detwiler. While he wasn’t a first round pick, the name people often forget is that of Jordan Zimmermann.
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The Wisconsin native was drafted in the second round of the 2007 amateur draft, 61 picks after the Nats selected Detwiler. Zimmermann quickly rose through the minor leagues, earning the highest rated prospect slot in the organization by the start of the 2009 season. He made his major league debut on April 20 of that season against the Braves in an affair that was delayed more than two hours by rain. He went six innings and gave up two runs in a win.
Zimmermann remained on the club into July, but elbow soreness sent him to the Disabled List. By August, further tests showed that the Nats’ prized young arm would require Tommy John surgery. He would be on the sidelines until a year later, and was placed on innings limits through the 2011 campaign.
Luckily for Zimmermann, Washington did not begin to contend until 2012, and he was able to contribute mightily during both of the club’s playoff runs. From 2012 through 2015, he was tied for the sixth-highest ERA+ in all of baseball (128) and was one of only two starting pitchers to log at least 685 innings while walking less than 160 batters during that span.
The Nats’ right-hander was selected to two All-Star Games (2013, 2014), finished in the top-10 in Cy Young voting twice, and led the National League with 19 wins in 2013. Zimmermann is the franchise (Nats’ history: 2005-present) leader among pitchers in wins, WAR, and complete games. He is the only player in Nationals history to throw at least 1,000 innings for the ballclub, and threw the first ever no-hitter for the D.C. club in the final game of the 2014 season.
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After a 2015 season that ended in disappointing fashion, the Nats and Zimmermann decided to part ways. Washington had acquired Max Scherzer prior to the season, and looked solid heading into 2016 with its pitching staff as is. Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Detroit Tigers, the largest ever for a Tommy John recipient before Stephen Strasburg resigned with the Nats for $175 million on Monday.
It remains unseen why the Nats opted to sign Strasburg instead of Zimmermann. Zim is two years older, but he commanded $65 million less. It seems Washington faced a crossroads: invest in the dependable starter who may deteriorate with age or test the budding superstar who still has yet to reach his full potential. While the Nats probably opted to go the route with higher risk, the reward will certainly pay off if Strasburg is able to continue his ascent to stardom.
Zimmermann’s legacy remains close to the hearts of most Nationals fans. Who can forget the image of him raising his arms in victory as Steven Souza made that incredible catch to secure his no-hitter? The last time we saw him pitching in October, he was leaving the mound after throwing 8 2/3 innings of three-hit ball against the eventual world champions.
Zimmermann is a fierce competitor, and Washington Nationals’ fans should count their lucky stars for being given the privilege of watching a man of his stature pitching every fifth day. Now, tomorrow night, they will watch him take the mound against Scherzer as a member of the visiting team.