If he doesn’t make another start this year, Jordan Zimmermann’s season is already tremendous: a 19-8 record, a 3.16 ERA, four complete games, 206 1/3 innings and a 1.10 WHIP and an all-star selection. But next Wednesday in St. Louis, Zimmermann will climb the mound for one final time. He will have a chance to notch the first 20-win season of his career. Good luck getting Zimmermann to publicly admit the significance of reaching the milestone.
“I just want the team to win, to be honest with you,” he said after Friday’s gem — a complete game two-hitter in an 8-0 win over the Miami Marlins. “If that means me going six, seven innings of no runs and I get the no decision, as long as we win, that’s the main thing.”
Teammates scoffed at Zimmermann’s response that reaching 20 wins wasn’t a big deal. “I doubt that,” said Denard Span, smiling. “I don’t believe him, but okay.” After hearing the same, Anthony Rendon turned his head towards Zimmermann’s locker and laughed. “He’s a modest guy, so he’s not going to be like, ‘I’m trying to get to 20,” Rendon said. “But yeah, it would be awesome. Twenty games, that’s a lot.”
Gio Gonzalez accomplished the feat last season, becoming the first pitcher since the franchise moved to Washington to win 20 in a season. Zimmmermann hopes to match the milestone next week.
“I think 20 wins for a pitcher is like 20 home runs for a position player,” Span said. “A position player tells you 20 home runs is not important, they’re probably not telling the truth. So yeah, 20 wins for a starting pitcher, it seems to be like the milestone. That’s like the standard of a good, powerful, quality starting pitcher.”
Already an efficient pitcher, Zimmermann has set career highs in innings and complete games. In his third full season in the majors, he will likely surpass his 2012 total of 150 strikeouts with four in his next start.
Zimmermann has completely recovered from a stiff neck that bugged him during the summer, and which contributed to a 5.48 ERA from the all-star break through the end of August. “When he’s feeling that good, he can pitch a heck of a ballgame,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
Zimmermann’s stellar resume will earn him National League Cy Young consideration. The field will likely included other dominant pitchers such as St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright (17-9, 2.98) and Miami’s Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.19), and Los Angeles’s Zack Greinke (15-3, 2.75). Others who may garner consideration are Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.92) and Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel (48 saves, 1.31).
The favorite remains the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who somehow has a 14-9 record with a majors-best 1.94 ERA over 223 innings. He has held opponents to a .197 average and posted a 0.93 WHIP.
“I think [Zimmermann’s chances] get a lot better if we make it to the postseason,” right fielder Jayson Werth said.