Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jordan Zimmermann - deception, heat and strikes

Jordan Zimmermann might be the best Number 3 starter in baseball. You can argue whether Strasburg or Gonzalez is Number 1, but everyone will agree that those two are your top two. But then you get Jordan Zimmermann on the third day and that is not a picnic by any stretch of the imagination. Gonzalez had a WHIP of 1.129 and Strasburg finished 2012 with a 1.155. Right behind them was Zimmermann at 1.170 and he was second on the team in strikeout to walk ratio. Zimmermann is a terrific combination of deception, heat and strike throwing ability.

What is so impressive about Jordan Zimmermann is that even though he is a young pitcher, he throws strikes and he throws them often. How many pitchers throw the slider for a higher strike percentage than their fastball? Zimmermann threw his slider for a strike 71% of the time and his fastball 68.5 percent of the time.

That combination allowed him to lead off a batter with either pitch for a strike. His first pitch strike rate of 69.2% was second only to Lee of the Phillies. Overall, he was eleventh in baseball for the lowest walks percentage among qualifying starters. And he does all of this despite having a big time fastball.

Zimmerman averaged 93.6 MPH on his fastball which was good for the sixth highest among qualifying starters. His slider had the seventh highest velocity. None of the ten lower walk rates from pitchers ahead of him came close to those velocities. His combination of economy and velocity is rare in baseball. His numbers in 2012 very closely resemble those of Sabathia. And yeah, Sabathia had a difficult season health wise, but to be in the same ballpark as most of Sabathia's numbers is pretty impressive.

You have already been painted a picture of Zimmermann's velocity and ability to throw strikes. The third part of the equation is deception. Zimmermann throws hard and he throws strikes, but he also gets batters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. He had the sixth highest O-swing rate among all qualified starters. O-swing rate is the amount of pitches a batter swings at out of the strike zone. They did so 34.4 percent of the time.

Oh, there is one other thing that Zimmermann did really well. Once he got runners on base, he did a real good job of limiting the damage. His strand rate of 79.3 was the fifth best in baseball. A few of the guys ahead of him included Price, Dickey and Sale.

Zimmermann has now made 58 starts in the last two seasons. He has pitched 357 innings and has walked only 74 batters. His homers per nine have been good at 0.7 and 0.8 respectively the last two seasons. His WHIP has been terrific with 1.143 in 2011 and 1.170 in 2012.

Jordan Zimmermann is just a really good young pitcher who at 27 is coming into his own. If he is your Number 3 horse with all of those great stats, no wonder there is so much optimism coming out of the Nationals this season.

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