Michael Morse got the feature story, with the quirky rituals, the self-congratulatory helmet-slapping, pre-pitch yoga-esque contortions at the plate and late-career breakout making for a better, more colorful story, but tucked into the last few paragraphs of SI.com's Joe Lemire's article on the most underrated players of 2011 were a few lines about Morse's teammate, 25-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. The quiet Wisconsin-born, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point educated '07 2nd Round pick, was one of five starters, along with the Reds' Johnny Cueto, the Indians' Justin Masterson, Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda and the Pirates' Jeff Karstens the SI.com writer recognized.
"Zimmermann will be in Stephen Strasburg's shadow as long as the two are teammates on the Nationals," Mr. Lemire wrote, and he's, "... only 8-11 due to poor run support, but his ERA is 3.10 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is exemplary, a 3.93 K/BB that ranks ninth in the majors." In his first full-year back from Tommy John surgery performed in the summer of 2009, Zimmermann was on an innings-limit this year, 160.0 IP, which he reached in Sunday's game against Cincinnati.
Having been lifted after just 4.1 IP in Great American Ball Park , Zimmermann's at 161.1 IP on the year, and he'll finish the season (8-11) in 26 starts, with a complete game (his first at any level as a pro), 124 K's (6.92 K/9) and 31 walks (1.73 BB/9) in 161.1 IP. Zimmermann's BB/9 were the third-lowest in the NL heading into his last start (he walked one batter on Sunday, forcing in a run with a bases-loaded free pass to Fred Lewis), and his 0.57 HR/9 (which will rise slightly after he surrendered two to the Reds), was tied for eighth-lowest in the National League. Before his final outing, Zimmermann also had the NL's second-lowest HR/FB ratio behind only Matt Cain and ahead of Roy Halladay.
Zimmermann hung an 0-1 curve up inside for a two-out solo blast by the Reds' Joey Votto on Sunday, and Jay Bruce hit a 93 mph 1-2 fastball 390ft to center. The run the Nats' starter surrendered in the fifth inning, however, in his final inning of work in Cincinnati was a little harder to take. After two singles and a base-loading HBP, Zimmermann missed inside with a 3-1 fastball that forced in the go-ahead run a half-inning after Washington had tied it at 2-2. Zimmermann's 81st pitch of the game will be his last of the season.
"It wasn't one his better ones," Nats' skipper Davey Johnson said after the game when asked about Zimmermann's final start, "but at least he didn't lose the game." Asked to sum up the right-hander's first full major league season, the manager added, "What a great year, outstanding year, sorry it has to end this quick, but he had a great season." For Zimmermann, the frustrating part is that he can't go back out in five days and correct his mistakes. "This start right here makes a guy want to get back on the mound," Zimmermann told reporters, "and I've got to deal with it for the whole offseason, so it's going to make me work even harder and be ready come Spring Training.
"I just wanted to finish strong and today wasn't a very good day," Zimmermann said, "I left two balls that were up a little bit and two HR's, left with the bases loaded and of course I didn't want to walk the guy at the end there, but there was a couple of close calls that could have went either way and I ended up walking him."
The 2011 season began with Zimmermann's name attached to a rumored deal for the one-time Royals' right-hander Zack Greinke, but D.C. GM Mike Rizzo also talked about a time in the future when the '07 2nd Round pick will be part of a one-two punch atop the Nationals' rotation alongside Stephen Strasburg, the pitcher whose shadow SI.com's Joe Lemire says Zimmermann will be pitching in as long as he's a National.
Judging by Zimmermann's demeanor, he'd have no problem with quietly going about his work, but he's not at all lacking in confidence. Asked Sunday afternoon what he'll take from the 2011 campaign, Zimmermann said, "I felt great. I felt strong all year, and I just want to work hard this offseason, and come Spring Training be ready to go and pitch 200-plus innings next year." 160.0 innings of Strasburg (or whatever limit he's on) and 200+ of Jordan Zimmermann is enough to make any Washington Nationals fan look expectantly toward the future.