When Jordan Zimmermann hurt his elbow in 2009 and had to have Tommy John Surgery, it kind of sucked. Not so bad as it sucked when Stephen Strasburg went down, not really, but it sucked nonetheless. What we’re seeing now from ZNN (nickname via Nats Baseball), though, makes up for it.
His season is over, but what a season it was, especially by Nats standards. He went 8-11 with a 3.18 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 26 starts, but look at how his advanced stats stack up against the three best starting pitcher seasons in Nats history:
Pitcher (Year): FIP — xFIP — WAR
Jordan Zimmermann (2011): 3.15 — 3.74 — 3.5
John Patterson (2005): 3.46 — 3.98 — 3.9
Estaban Loaiza (2005): 3.33 — 3.69 — 4.6
Livan Hernandez (2010): 3.95 — 4.57 — 3.0
If you’re measuring by FIP (which is fielding-independent ERA, basically), Zimmermann’s 2011 season is the best a Nats pitcher has ever had. If you measure by xFIP (a more advanced version of FIP, I guess), it’s the second-best. And if you measure by WAR (wins above replacement, duh), it’s third-best, but that’s only because he had to shut it down after 26 starts.
Those are impressive numbers, but Zimmermann’s 2011 was even better than that. It was better because it established ZNN as a young, front-end starter just as the team is looking like a young, long-shot contender. It was even better still as it also showed the Nats that a pitcher can return from Tommy John and be even better than before, which, in Strasburg’s case, is kind of wonderful. Zimmermann’s too.