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Zimmermann’s final hurdle

Aug 24, 2011, 4:19 AM EDT

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Jordan Zimmermann reacts to Sean Burroughs’ seventh-inning home run.

Jordan Zimmermann has, in so many ways, exceeded even the Nationals’ loftiest expectations this season. Team officials merely wanted the right-hander to enjoy a pain-free year after recovering from Tommy John surgery, and perhaps flash a glimpse or two of the front-line starter they believe he will be some day.

Zimmermann wound up doing far more than that, establishing himself as one of the National League’s best young arms and maintaining an ERA right around the 3.00 mark for the last three months.

But as his season reaches its early conclusion — he’s due to be shut down after making one more start Sunday due to an organizational limit on innings pitched — Zimmermann still knows he has one more major hurdle to cross in his professional development. He still needs to learn how to gut his way through one more inning, avoiding the late disasters that unfortunately have plagued him far too often this season.

It happened again Tuesday night against the Diamondbacks. Dominant for six innings, Zimmermann made one critical mistake in the seventh, resulting in Sean Burroughs’ two-run homer. And that proved the difference in the Nationals’ 2-0 loss at the end of a strange day in Washington that included the region’s largest earthquake in more than a century.

“One pitch kills me again,” Zimmermann said.

Indeed, this wasn’t the first time the 25-year-old saw an otherwise fabulous outing ruined by a late blast from the opposition. Vladimir
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  1. Drew8 - Aug 24, 2011 at 4:59 AM

    Maybe Davey needs to learn to Zimn after 6.Speaking of sparkling pitching performances, Danny Rosenbaum was lights out again at Harrisburg Tuesday night. Since his promotion to AA he's 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA. I'm telling ya, the guy will force his way into the conversation.At Syracuse, Brad Peacock won his fourth game, giving up two earned over 5. In eight outings since his dismal debut in Syracuse, Peacock is 4-0 with a 2.47 ERA.Two odd notes about the farm:Remember 2b Jeff Kobernus, the 2009 2nd Rounder out of Cal Berkeley? The dude has 46 stolen bases at Potomac, 10 more than supposed speedster Eury Perez. Who knew?At Harrisburg Derek Norris is back under Mendoza at .199 and he still has a .787 OPS. Crazy.

  2. Drew8 - Aug 24, 2011 at 5:00 AM

    Make that "pull Zimmermann after 6."

  3. Anonymous - Aug 24, 2011 at 5:13 AM

    The plan post-Stan is creating an ensemble. No superstars that have to carry the whole team. Even Strasburg and Harper appear to have been "read in" to these principles.JZimmnn just has to keep doing what he is doing … getting the team to the sixth inning or beyond with a chance to win. That's it. If he tries to do anymore or too much he could end up like Garret Mock … in the bullpen. Same with Stras. Purke has a major league contract so chances are he might be joining the rotation sooner rather than later. Lannan is still young and has surprised with dramatic improvement. That makes 3. They just need a solid veteran … perhaps they go after CC Sabathia or someone of similar ilk as they did with Grienke. I don't think Livo (who really belongs in the bullpen) or Wang will suffice. But Wang is a huge surprise so you never know.With someone like that they should easily contend based solely on pitching excluding everyone's gnawing concern about CF. Just not even close. It all begins and ends with the pitching. The rest can be cobbled together into the ensemble act the Nats want to build.

  4. dale - Aug 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Zimmermann was also the victim of a ridiculously tight zone called by the umpire. There were at least two batters that pitchtrack showed should have been rung up on called strike three that got a reprieve.FP Santangelo made a point that in the sixth when Davey sent a pinch hitter up for Zimmerman in the on deck circle Zimmerman probably lost his concentration, thinking he was now out of the game.

  5. Mick - Aug 24, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    dale: AGREED oon the sttrike zone.I would shut down Jordan Z now, do not push the envelope. Bring up Strass, Peacock and Milone. Who knows, between the 3 they could shock the league from the standpoint that with the exception of Strassburg, there is no book on Peacock and Milone for hitters to know their tendencies.

  6. Bill B - Aug 24, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Mark Z is right, of course, that Zimmermann will improve as he learns not to make those mistakes. But c'mon — 2 runs over 6.1? That's pretty darn good. If the Nats had scored 3 runs, which isn't asking THAT much, after all, the press on yesterday's game would have been, "Zimmermann wins pitcher's duel against Ian Kennedy." I LOVE this kid!

  7. spark - Aug 24, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    Complaining about the strike zone is childish. Poor calls happen all the time, to every pitcher, in every sport, to every athlete. Deal.Bill B – good perspective.

  8. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 24, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Jordan Zimmermann is making one more start on Sunday, in spite of the rantings of "Mick". And knowing Davey Johnson's history, he'll have Jordan pitch as long as he's effective, whether that takes him to 162 – 163 – or 164 innings. If this was Nolan Ryans team, Jordan would make 6 more starts and PHOOEY on the innings limit.My only problem with Jordan is he falls behind hitters in the worst situations… 3 – 0 count to the number 8 hitter with 2 outs…. 3 – 0 count to the number 2 hitter with no outs… and he does things like this whether its the second inning or the 6th. This whole season has been a learning process for Jordan and before you can succeed, you must understand how to avoid failure. Davey's putting Jordan in those situations.

  9. sjm308 - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Not sure if "Mick" understands this but 162 innings qualifies Zimmermann for any awards given out and to be listed in all catagories. He is not in the top 3 in anything but at 162 he will be listed, and that will mean a lot to him and not just in negotiations. To have the 5th best era or have the 8th best strikeout to walk ratio (I don't have those stats, I just threw those in as examples) is something he can build on next year. Its like when Morse was tearing it up but did not have the plate appearances to qualify. Its neat to see him in the top 10 in stuff, and I am sure it means something to him as well. Mick and others were realy harsh on Davey in a previous post. I was not a huge fan at first but am slowly starting to see that he knows just a little more than our posters about pitching and baseball. I like that he is trying to stretch our young pitchers and get them through the 7th inning. That is huge for them and also our bullpen. I think this has been an incredible year for our club and the young guys have been able to learn a great deal, not just baseball either. I think pudge is showing our kids just how much fun baseball can be and the way he is working to return for next year has to be noticed. They learned that people can quit in the middle of a season and all is not lost. They learned that even when slumping at the plate you keep hustling on the bases and playing defense hard. They saw our best player out for 57 games come back and make adjustments and get better. Its just been a terrific season even if people here want everyone fired or traded. I love it. Will be there tonight, part of me wants to see DRRREWWWWWWW but I would be ok with an 8-2 win as well.go nats!!

  10. baseballswami - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    For goodness sake, he's 25, has never pitched a full season and is on his return from TJ surgery. He shouldn't have to learn to go more than 6 this year – he has plenty of years left. I see no reason why 6 couldn't have been fine for this year. I also see no reason why he should have been pushed this season. Learning to go 7 and building his body and concentration can be the goal for next year. He already has to deal with no run support, which creates a lot of pressure. If baseball was fair, he would have 6 more wins. I just don't think you should expect him to be perfect in every aspect of the game —yet. He has been awesome – Stephen Strasburg should pray every day that he can do as well next year as Jordan did this year. Prediction – JZ will be the first Nat to throw a no-hitter. Expect it.

  11. Avar - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Have to agree w/ Bill B. Both Mark and Kilgore wrote similar stories that I took to be critical of JZimm for failing to get out of the 7th. But, 2 runs in 6 1/3 is good for anyone. And given the lead in to the story that they only wanted him to be healthy this year, why the criticism for failing to be perfect? The story of the game to me was; JZimm very good…again, Nats offense terrible again. Maybe you can be disappointed in someone like Halladay not getting out of the 7th, but not a 2nd year (or whatever) kid 2 yrs out from Tommy John.

  12. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    sjm308…. there is so much about baseball that isn't obvious to the casual fan or even the self proclaimed experts that post on this and other sites.I've learned from watching the professional instructors that have to deal with the newly signed players and the raw talent that progresses from the lower depths of the system that the game played at the ML level is nothing like the games we played in high school or college. The attention to detail on the physical level is one thing while the attention to detail on the mental level is a whole different thing.That's why I and a few others get labeled as "sycophants" or why we hound our fellow posters when they expound the attributes of players like Boomer Whiting or Jhonathan Solano. We believe in the REAL professionals.The REAL professionals such as Pat Corrales and Davey Johnson know how and what to teach at the ML level and, yes, this season has been all about learning how to win. And the other professionals, such as Roy Clark, Mike Rizzo, and the entire scouting staff know how to judge talent.They are way ahead of all of us when it comes to the game and team we love so much.

  13. natsfan1a - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Agree with Bill and Agar. Didn't see all of the game as I was clicking around a bit early in the game and fell asleep in front of the tv before it ended. I seriously do like pitcher's duels but I also tend to nod off during them. Heh.

  14. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 24, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Mick… I also meant to mention that you make a good point on the "no book" thing when mentioning Peacock and Milhone.You may want to share that with Jeeves from yesterday who was so impressed with Detwiler during his 2009 September call up.(And, yes, I like Detwiler.)

  15. MicheleS - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I will play Pollyanna here:I think in some of the first posts after DJ came on board, someone mentioned that when DJ took over the Mets, he let the pitchers go a little longer to see if they could work their way out of jams and learn from any such failures or victories. And sure enough they learned from that and won. I think that is what he is doing hear with all of our pitchers both relievers and starters. He wants them to learn and push themselves a little farther now for the gains we will relish in the future.As much as it pains me to watch some of this now – like with MPHROD- I think it pays off in the near future. I think – at least for this season- it's time to stop questioning every decision DJ makes and watch the development of our players and see if they can use these last few weeks as a springboard to better things next season. Still hoping we get to 79 wins (at least), but won't fuss too much if we only get to 75. Showing improvements each year is what we need from this team.And now back to the non-Pollyanna's

  16. HHover - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Bill B. et al -Sure, 2 runs over 6.1 IP is good. 0-1 runs over 7-8 IP would be better–and if JZimm is going to be the elite #1-#2 starter that many of us hope, that's what he needs to be able to do. There's no reason to think that asking him to push a little farther, as Davey did last night, is going to harm him physically or psychologically–especially in a game that in the greater scheme of things doesn't matter a tinker's damn. This is part of his learning process, and a good pitcher like JZimm can learn from the failures as well as the successes.

  17. N. Cognito - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    "Make that "pull Zimmermann after 6." Then that's as far as he'll ever be able to go."Zimmermann was also the victim of a ridiculously tight zone called by the umpire."So was Kennedy. The ump had a tight strike zone for both pitchers.

  18. Andrew - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    I was at the game last night. When Jordan had the 1-2 count on Young in the 6th inning and looked like he threw him 3 straight breaking pitches. The 1st 2 breakers he wanted him to chase and they were out of the zone. The 3rd one looked like a strike 3 and Ramos held the ball and thought the ump would ring 'em up. You could see JZim's body language when he didn't get the call and things don't go right. Reminded me of his game in Chicago. 1st pitch to Burroughs was sent out for the difference maker.He has become his own un-doing too many times but the fact this team scores little or no runs for him is a constant reminder of how Ace he has to be. Perfection and nothing less.Love watching him pitch. Identical ERAs with Kennedy and one is 16-4 and in the Cy Young discussion and the other is 8-11 and not in any discussion outside of DC.A shame.

  19. Analytical Nat - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Earthquake damage, three of my bobble heads, Dimitri Young, Ryan Zimmerman, Jose Guillen were all injured in the rumble. Dimitri was decapitated.

  20. Whynat - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Change of topic -Werth is quietly returning to his old self:Last 30 days he is .287/.362/.468 which pretty much looks like his baseball card. Not quite 09 and 10, but he is getting there. Watching Zim, Morse and Werth trot off the field after the 3 run dinger on Monday, I could get used to that heart of the order for a few years.

  21. Drew8 - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    In other bobblehead news:A work colleague who is a Phillies fan (and his parents are married!) went up for a game and brought me his Ian Desmond bobblehead.Must be my penance.

  22. jd - Aug 24, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Monday morning quarter backing is not necessary. JZimm was still strong and his fastball was still popping in the 7th inning. He exited the game having thrown 108 pitches which is not outrageous. Making tough pitches late in tight ball games is part of being an elite pitcher and if Jordan is as good as we all think he is he will clear this hurdle as well.

  23. jd - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    I have read literature on innings limits and young pitchers and the overwhelming evidence is that it is age related. The magic number is 24 and at that age the shoulders are fully developed and there is no need to hold pitchers back. It is however ultra critical to 'baby' pitchers until they get to that age. Nolan Ryan doesn't necessarily believe in this approach but interestingly enough he himself pitched very little in his early years with the Mets (mainly because he was so wild) and he ended up having a long productive career with very few injury problem. Pitchers who were 'thrown to the wolves' at an early age and had short careers include: Gooden, Valenzuela, Tannana, Fydrich, Prior.

  24. spark - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Analytical Nat, sorry about your loss.jd, 9:51,right on. As to the 10:00 list, might we add one Rick Ankiel to that list?

  25. m20832 - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    JZimm is a very good pitcher. He will be a force next year (and many years to come) with this season under his belt.We have really good pitching coming up from the minors. The pitching has been very good.The defense has really improved this year and will be even better next year (hopefully with the young guys maturing into their positions with the playing time they have had this year).What worries me is the offense and the lack of any consistent hitting. Too many players left on base when they do hit. Looking to hit the long ball every time at the plate. Swinging at pitches in the dirt off the plate.How do the Nats improve that part of their game? Extra batting practice? A new hitting coach with a different philosophy? Eye contacts so they will be able to see where the ball is being pitched?Anybody have any new and fresh ideas?

  26. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    The hitting will improve when the lineup has better hitters in the 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 holes or the hitters in those spots improve alot.

  27. Anonymous - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    13 shutouts, 1 every 9.77 games.

  28. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    Rick Ankiel did not develope arm problems like the others.

  29. Big Cat - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    How about Kennedy last night. Very impressive. Fastest 92 mph I've ever seen

  30. Wally - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    JD – I think that Ryan does believe in limiting wear on young arms. I don't know if he is beholden to age 24 or not. It is afterwards that he differs from conventional wisdom. My take is that no one really understands it enough to form a consensus regarding specific training, but general principles that make sense are there (avoid too much stress at any one time (no 50 pitch innings)/ or big jumps season to season). Or, they make sense to everyone but certain college coaches, that is.

  31. Wally - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    NatsJack in Florida said… The hitting will improve when the lineup has better hitters in the 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 holes or the hitters in those spots improve alot.Laughing at that one. Can't argue, though. I would take improved hitters at just 1,2,5 and 6 though.

  32. Analytical Nat - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Given what we know and don't know about pitcher's arms and shoulders, I don't think the human body was meant to project small objects at approximately 90 mph a hundred to a hundred twenty times every five days for six months. Maybe MLB should change the rules and have hitters swing off the tee.

  33. Wally - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    On JZimm, I have nothing really to quibble about. I think Davey sees him as a chance to be a #1 stud, and is trying to show him the things that he needs to do to become that. Seems like a good thing to do for the kid. Just a phenomenal year from Jordan, and I am thrilled for him and us.I posted yesterday that there was some value to preserving his stats, and I would also have been ok doing that. But that value is more towards creating buzz around the team, not just Jordan, and isn't a substantive thing. Meaning, I am also ok not giving that any credence.

  34. sjm308 - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Nats Jack is usually right on and sadly I don't think he was trying for laughs on our lineup – I have to believe Werth will hit better next year. Not sure where the other improvement will come from although if LaRoche returns to form that would give us #3-4-5-6 with potential for 20+ HR and 75+ rbi – If Espinosa bats 7th and continues to improve that would be 5 men with decent power numbers, and our catcher is not that horrible either at #8. Just not sure about that first and second guy.

  35. A DC Wonk - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    N. Cognito said… "Make that "pull Zimmermann after 6." Then that's as far as he'll ever be able to go.Exactly. I'm thrilled to see the view on Davey this morning is 180-degrees from what it seemed last night.Look, everybody is already proclaiming that Stras and JZ will be our top two aces next year. And if we want to compete, that's what we'll need. Well, if JZ is to be an ace, he has to learn how to pitch more than six innings.Further, quite possibly this is a mental problem — lack of consistent focus, etc., (such as, as someone mentioned above, going 3-0 on the #8 hitter). If I recall correctly, McCatty came out to talk to JZ and JZ served the HR ball on the very next pitch.I've been preaching Davey's view of "short term pain for long term gain" for a while now. Last night was yet another clear-as-day example. The only way JZ's going to learn to pitch through the seventh is to keep trying to pitch through the seventh.I think in some of the first posts after DJ came on board, someone mentioned that when DJ took over the Mets, he let the pitchers go a little longer to see if they could work their way out of jams and learn from any such failures or victories. And sure enough they learned from that and won. I think that is what he is doing hear with all of our pitchers both relievers and starters. He wants them to learn and push themselves a little farther now for the gains we will relish in the future.Yep — that was me (among others). Note, too, the article I cited the other night — that the players, in particularly the pitchers, love Davey _because_ (among other reasons) he lets the players take ownership of what they're doing. He'll tell pitchers: dude, work yourself out of this inning. Or, like last Friday night in the bottom of the 9th, with men on 1st and 2nd and nobody out, he tells Werth: no, don't bunt, get the game winning rbi.Until we are in a season where we are contending for the playoffs, we're going to keep seeing this again and again. We're going to keep seeing HRod out there, until we know for sure whether he has a future of being able to control his wild stuff. We're going to keep seeing Burnett out there as long as Davey thinks he has a future. And it'll drive the fans nuts. *But* — it will pay off in the end. When, some day (hopefully 2013, say), in a crucial game down the stretch, when our bullpen has been stretched thin, when JZ walks the leadoff batter in the 7th, with a squeezed strike zone — JZ will get himself out of the jam — and he (and we) will have his 2011 season and Davey to thank for it. Some day, in a must-win game, and Clip and Store need rest, MPHRod will come in and retire the last six batters of a game. And it will be, in part, because Davey kept throwing him out there this year and next.I've seen this happen too many times before (Davey almost always finished 1st or 2nd with four different teams) to think it won't happen again for his fifth team.And if those who are cranky about last night really want to point fingers — think about Ryan Z and M Morse striking out with bases loaded — instead of JZ's near gem, or Davey's choosing to let JZ try to grow up rather than use the hook.And get those cranks offa my lawn! ;-)

  36. A DC Wonk - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    Re: Nolan RyanNolan Ryan, learned from Tom Seaver, the value of using your legs to push off and generate power. They would push off the pitching rubber so hard and so far, that their right knee would have dirt on it from pitching. (Anyone else remember that?)With no stats to back me up, I'm convinced that this use of the legs is one of the main reasons both of them had so much power for so long.I don't see too many power pitchers do that nowadays (or have I missed it?). If Ryan wants his pitchers to pitch so many innings, I wonder if he's also teaching about the leg power. (And if pitchers _aren't_ doing that, I wonder if his experiment will work)

  37. Analytical Nat - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    There are at least 162 games in a ML season, and we analyze each game as though it the beginning and end. This is what I know about baseball, 'nutten."

  38. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    sjm308…partially tongue in cheek… but the real key to the lineup is the 1 and 2 spots being handled by professional hitters. They need to be guys who know how to fight off pitches, take counts deep and put the ball in play. We have way too many swing and miss guys through out the entire lineup.I really don't have much of a problem with Flores or Ramos batting 8th as I believe both have the ability to improve and I'll take the current Jason Werth as opposed to the one that played the first 4 months of the season.If LaRoche comes back healthy and completely avoids his usual sloth like start, he can handle the 6 spot unless Davey wants to break up Zim, Morse, Werth which means either 4 or 5, then all we are talking about is 3 spots. I see flickers of light coming from Desmond just recently and I really believe Espinosa will take a huge step this off season.So in the words of Steve M… bring on Coco Crisp for the leadoff spot, get me Mark Buerhle to be the solid veteran and I'll take my chances on a run at both Philly and Atlanta.

  39. sjm308 - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Need to know who Steve M's agent is and if he has contacted the Lerners about that assist. GM spot. Just for Buerhle and Crisp alone. I would be fine with others in CF but Buerhle would just put me over the top for next year. Can't imagine what that staff would be like!!

  40. sjm308 - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    OK, I shilled for Buerhle on a previous post but that was just looking at the back of his latest baseball card (yes, I collect cards at age 66). Just went to baseball reference.com and found that he now has ELEVEN straight seasons of 10+ wins and is only 32. Will also think he will have ELEVEN straight seasons of 200+ innings. Don't think he would be a step up from Livan? No disrespect to Livan who has been the heart and soul of our staff but if we can sign Buehrle its a major step toward the playoffs.

  41. Steve M. - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    Jordan had plenty left in the tank last night. The issue was on Jordan and how he handles perfection and adversity.When you are in a 0-0 game, you pitch differently then 4-0 like Detwiler had the night before.Personally, I feel bad for Jordan Zimmermann as the point above about 2 pitchers with almost identical ERA and games played have a very different result on the W/L. Ian Kennedy won't be a Cy Young but will get some votes and could win 20 games. 16-4 versus 8-11 comes down in these 2 cases of run support. Some days it is sun in his fielder's eyes and some days it is just a fielding error and most of the season the run support has been a joke like against the Angels where Jordan went complete game and lost 1-0. You figure your team holds the opponent to 1 or 2 runs you have a great shot at a win. Jordan has taken 5 losses when giving up 2 earned runs or less. If all those were Wins, that record is 13-6.What a difference a few runs make.

  42. Steve M. - Aug 24, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    Oh, one more point on Ian Kennedy in games where he has given up -less- than 7 earned runs, he has only taken 2 losses which shows how his offense picks him up.

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