Why Jordan Zimmermann Is the Most Underrated Pitcher in Baseball
This has been another amazing year for pitchers in Major League Baseball, with six no-hitters and three perfect games.
One of those perfect games was hurled by San Francisco Giants pitchers Matt Cain, who before doing so was arguably the most underrated pitcher in baseball.
Now, that title could easily go to Jordan Zimmermann, who has done everything he can to earn that title, short of throwing a perfect game.
Here are nine reasons why Zimmermann is the most underrated pitcher in baseball.
9. Strikeouts Per Walk
An excellent indication of a pitcher's command is his ratio of strikeouts to walks.
Tied with Zimmermann is New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (pictured). Sabathia is 188-99 in his 12-year career and has 2,157 strikeouts. He has won at least 19 games four times and has struck out at least 200 batters three times.
He won the AL Cy Young in 2007, when he led the junior circuit with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.65.
It is quite an accomplishment for Zimmermann to be mentioned in the same breath as Sabathia.
It's too bad Jordan doesn't get mentioned more often.
Another good indication of a pitcher's command is his walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP).
Jordan Zimmermann currently has a 1.12 WHIP. That is 16th best in MLB and ninth best in the NL.
This statistic helps to explain the success of the Washington Nationals staff, which has had command emphasized by pitching coach Steve McCatty.
Zimmermann is just behind Stephen Strasburg, who has a WHIP of 1.11. And Zimmermann leads the rest of the staff, with Gio Gonzalez at 1.16, Edwin Jackson (pictured) at 1.17 and Ross Detwiler at 1.18. All five starters rank among the top 30 in WHIP.
But despite his dominance on his own staff, Zimmermann is never the first or even second pitcher mentioned when discussing the success of this rotation.
7. Left-on-Base Percentage
All pitchers will eventually give up either a hit or a walk, no matter how dominant they are. So a valuable stat is a pitcher's left-on-base percentage, which indicates the percentage of runners who are stranded if they do indeed reach base.
Jordan Zimmermann has the fourth best left-on-base percentage in baseball at 80.9 and leads the National League. He trails Tampa Bay's David Price (pictured), the MLB leader in this statistic with 83.3 percent, by a mere 2.4 percent.
It is no coincidence that these two pitchers are among the hardest to score upon in Major League Baseball.
Not surprisingly, Jordan Zimmermann is able to translate a high LOB percentage into a low ERA. Cuurently, Jordan has the fourth-lowest ERA in all of baseball at 2.54. He trails Cincinnati Reds right-hander Johhny Cueto (pictured) for the NL lead. Cueto has an ERA of 2.42.
Earned Run Average (ERA) is considered one of the three "Triple Crown" statistics for pitchers, along with wins and strikeouts. So one would think that the pitcher with the fourth-lowest ERA would get plenty of praise for his efforts. That has not been the case.
Zimmermann is in contention for one of the three jewels in the Triple Crown.
So why does his jewel lack the luster of the other two?
5. Quality Starts
A goal for any starting pitcher is to pitch deep into a game. As a result, a high priority is placed on a "quality start," defined by BaseballReference.com as pitching "at least six innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs."
Jordan Zimmermann has 20 quality starts, tied for second with Tampa Bay's David Price and Kyle Lohse of the St. Louis Cardinals. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo (pictured) leads MLB with 21 quality starts.
Zimmermann also has a quality start percentage of 80, third in all of baseball among qualified starters, behind only Ryan Vogelsong of the San Francisco Giants at 83 percenrt and Yovani Gallardo at 81 percent.
If the goal of a starting pitcher is to pitch deep into a game, then Zimmermann is one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Not all quality starts appear in the win column.
A no-decision occurs when a pitcher leaves a game with the outcome still in doubt.
Zimmermann has nine no-decisions in 25 starts. He had seven last year in 26 starts.
If some of this season's no-decisions had gone in his favor, Zimmermann would have more than nine wins. That change alone would prevent him from being underrated, as a pitcher's win total is usually the first statistic used to measure his success.
3. Tough Losses
"Tough losses" are defined by ESPN as "losses in games started that are quality starts."
Josh Johnson of the Miami Marlins (pictured) and Wandy Rodriguez, first of the Houston Astros and now of the Pittsburgh Pirates, lead all of baseball with six tough losses. Jordan Zimmermann has four.
This discouraging number has helped to lower Zimmermann's record to 9-7, just better than .500. This apparent mediocrity has hurt his chances at winning the NL Cy Young despite a stellar season.
Even a slight change in the number of tough losses would help make him a Cy Young candidate. Maybe then he would no longer be underrated.
2. Gio Gonzalez
Gio Gonzalez was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the offseason for four prized prospects, and he has been worth the price. In the process of proving his worth, however, Gio has stolen the spotlight from Jordan Zimmermann.
Despite Zimmermann's stellar season, Gonzalez leads him in wins, strikeouts and opponents' batting average. Plus, Gonzalez had already been an All-Star with the A's and was selected again this season. Zimemrmann has yet to go to the Mid-Summer Classic.
But perhaps most importantly, Gonzalez has outshone Zimmermann with his personality. Zimmermann is reserved and serious, while Gonzalez is extroverted and playful.
Quite simply, the national press has talked about Gonzalez more than Zimmermann because Gonzalez is more fun to talk about.
1. Stephen Strasburg
No matter how well Jordan ZImmermann pitches, he will never escape the long shadow of Stephen Strasburg.
Zimermann has a lower ERA, more quality starts and a better strikeout-to-walk ratio. But Strasburg has more wins, more strikeouts and a better WHIP.
Zimmermann is having a career season, but Strasburg pitched in his first career All-Star game this year before Zimmermann reached that career milestone.
Zimmermann was drafted in the second round and was a well-regarded prospect. But Strasburg was drafted first overall and was perhaps the most-hyped prospect of all time.
Finally, Zimmermann's recovery from Tommy John surgery has received much less fanfare than Strasburg's recovery from the same surgery, employed to repair an injury that plagues major league pitchers.
Last season, Zimmermann was hearing the same phrases Strasburg is hearing this year: pitch count, innings limit, shut-down date. But no one cared when Zimmermann was dealing with it. With Strasburg, it's a national debate.
It will always be difficult for Zimmermann to receive proper recognition if he is always overshadowed by a pitcher on his own team.
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