Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Nationals’ Unknown Ace

Consider these two stat lines for two pitchers in the National League:

Pitcher 1: 6-6, 3.16 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
Pitcher 2: 5-6, 2.85 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

Pitcher 1 is the San Francisco Giants’ two-time Cy Young-winning ace, Tim Lincecum.

Pitcher 2, with the superior statistics, is the Washington Nationals’ own Jordan Zimmermann.

Shocking isn’t it?  Two years ago, Zimmermann was the “other Zim” (a reference to better-known Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman).  He was coming off of the dreaded Tommy John surgery and was essentially forgotten by fans as the Stephen Strasburg era took hold of D.C.

Now, after showing nothing but flashes through the first few years of his career, Zimmermann appears to have stepped up and become the ace the Nationals always hoped he could be.

Jordan Zimmermann has a 1.32 ERA in June. Photo courtesy of masnsports.com

While it may be a bit premature to call Zimmermann an “ace” at this point in the season, it’s really not all that much of a stretch. Check out his numbers in June: 3-0, 1.32 ERA.  (Now go look at John Lannan’s stats for June and you’ll see the reason why the Nationals have been playing so well recently.)  There is no longer any question who the best pitcher on this Nationals team is in the absence of Strasburg – it’s Zimmermann far and away.  He has 10 consecutive quality starts and has not allowed more than two earned runs in a game since allowing three in a 6-5 loss to Atlanta on May 12.  Overall, he’s allowed more than two earned runs only three times all season.

It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that Zimmermann’s coming out party has begun this season.  It’s fortunate because in a year where pitching is dominating hitting, Zimmermann is keeping pace spectacularly and has become a guy the Nationals can be sure will give them six or seven strong innings.  It’s unfortunate because in a pitcher’s year such as this, Zimmerman’s numbers seem almost pedestrian compared to some of the greats.  His excellent 2.85 ERA is only 7th best in the National League.  In fact, 12 pitchers in the N.L. have sub-3.00 ERA’s.

But for Zimmermann to be able to make a claim as one of the great pitchers in baseball is nothing short of extraordinary.  After his Tommy John surgery, it seemed like he would never fully reach his potential.  His career ERA was over 4.50 after being rushed too quickly to the major leagues and if that was the best he could do pre-surgery, how could he ever improve afterwards?

It’s a testament to his work ethic.  Similar to how he is able to consistently work out of a jam on the diamond, he was able to claw his way back and train harder than ever to make a return once he was fully healed from surgery.

It’s arguable that he has been one of the most important players on the team this season.  After the devastating news that Strasburg would miss the whole year because of Tommy John surgery, Zimmermann has stepped up in an incredible way, cementing his place as the best starter in a Nationals pitching rotation that has been nothing short of superb all season long.

And for fans, the prospect of a rotation with Strasburg and Zimmermann pitching every respective fifth day is one to drool over.

What up Jan Vesely

The Washington Wizards drafted Jan Vesely sixth overall in the NBA draft on Thursday night.  I’ll admit, I don’t know the first thing about Jan Vesely.  So I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I can write about him.  But I’ll let you know about what I can glean from scouting reports.

The Washington Wizards took forward Jan Vesely with the 6th pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Photo courtesy of swishscout.com

1. The guy has long arms and legs and is basically the definition of “lanky.”  If he puts muscle on, he could be a viable offensive threat.

2. He’s athletic as they come.  He can run the floor and can move very well, and he was known overseas for his motor.  Hopefully, that motor translates to the NBA because the Wizards could use all the defensive help they can get.

3. This.

4. His rebounding is apparently off the charts.  He can also spot up from three and take it to the hole.  His ball handling isn’t great but that’s what John Wall is for.  I’ll punch Vesely if he dribbles out the shot clock.

Overall, I like this pick.  I would have loved if the Wizards had traded up to get Enes Kanter because that kid is an absolute monster, but Vesely works fine for me.

The Wizards also drafted forward Chris Singleton out of Florida State.  He will be a great defender and solid energy guy.  In addition, Shelvin Mack was another selection.  I absolutely love this pick because of Mack’s defensive intensity.

Riggleman resigns at the worst time possible

It’s been a long time since I wrote here, thanks to final exams and whatnot.  I guess you could also sprinkle in a bit of laziness, as well as despair – ever since the Capitals got the broom courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s been tough as a fan.

In order for me to finally emerge from the doldrums and post something, there must have really been an event that caused me to feel the need to rant.  That, my friends, is the hole the Washington Nationals just dug themselves not 2 hours ago.

For all of you people thinking I’m a bandwagon fan, quit it.  I not only root for the Nationals through the good and the (mostly) bad, I’ve been to more Expos games than most of you have gone to Nationals games.  So don’t doubt my fan-ness, please.

Yes, the Nationals have turned heads lately.  Aside from possibly the Minnesota Twins, the Nats are the hottest team in baseball, winning 11 of their last 12 games including a dramatic 8-game winning streak.  They’ve won their last four series and just swept the Seattle Mariners, a team from the much-ballyhooed American League.

And then, manager Jim Riggleman decided he had had enough.

Jim Riggleman resigned as manager of the Washington Nationals today. Photo courtesy of gearupforsports.com

On the heels of a 1-0 victory over the Mariners, Riggleman resigned in the wake of a contract dispute that has been near the tipping point for almost the entire season.  Riggleman, the MLB’s lowest-paid manager with a salary of $600,000, wanted commitment from the Nationals management.  He wanted to be sure that he would be back next year, with a salary greater than the meager figure he currently pulls down.  When General Manager Mike Rizzo declined to even speak with Riggleman about the matter, the 58-year old came to the conclusion that he was not wanted for the future and the best thing to do would be to step down and stop being a placeholder.

Let me put it this way – this is absolutely the LAST thing the Nationals could want.  They are playing their best baseball since 2005, and fans are noticing.  They have a incredible young core of talent mixed with a solid veteran presence all built around the face of the franchise, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.  Baseball matters again and whether or not the team is losing, the very existence of such a young and exciting team is enough to make the casual fan want to take part.

The Nationals’ management is at fault.  Jim Riggleman is at fault.  Riggleman should have been treated with more respect, and he also should have finished the year out.  He’s been known as a strong finisher throughout his entire managerial career, and this will most certainly be a stain on his reputation.

But despite the abrupt turmoil, veteran outfielder Jayson Werth made a statement that I hoped he would make.  “It’s not going to change anything in here.  We’re the ones that have been making the pitches and hitting the balls and winning the ballgames, so we’re going to keep going.”

Werth, along with the other veterans on this exciting club, will have to step up and be leaders during a spectacular run tainted by a sudden injection of turmoil.

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