How you get to “Should we Trade Jordan Zimmermann?”

Jordan Zimmermann unleashes the fury. -Photo Credit @AshburnNatsFan

Jordan Zimmermann unleashes the fury. -Photo Credit @AshburnNatsFan

Last night, MLBRumors posted a juicy Natstown rumor that the team is deep into talks to trade Jordan Zimmermann to the Cubs. Arguably their most consistent and best starting pitcher over the last three years, you can imagine the horror and outrage at the suggestion by fans that JZ would be on the trading block. Sadly, the happy imagination land of fans (myself included) where every player always wants to play for your team ever and its only a matter of deciding which ones to keep is not the real world. General Managers, even very good ones like Mike Rizzo, need to make decisions about not just who the good players are but which ones they can afford. Hold onto too many fan favorites, and suddenly you’re the Philadelphia Phillies begging folks to take their old, terrible players.

“But it’s Jordan Zimmermann” you protest. I know. Trust me. I know. I’m right there with you. But reality is reality folks, and so I present to you what would be my thought process (as uninformed as it is) as to how I might also come to the conclusion its time to trade JZ.

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Get To Know A Series: San Diego Padres

Padres 

Washington Nationals (12-10) vs. San Diego Padres (10-12)

2014 Head to Head Record: (0 – 0)
2013 Head to Head Record: Nationals 5 – 2  

Thursday, April 24 7:05 p.m.
Jordan Zimmermann (3.92 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 10.02 K/9) vs. Eric Stults (4.35 ERA, 5.40 FIP, 3.92 K/9)

Friday, April 25 7:05 p.m.
Stephen Strasburg (5.33 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 14.00 K/9) vs. Robbie Erlin (4.15 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 8.83 K/9)

Saturday, April 26 1:05 p.m.
Tanner Roark (3.80 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 6.85 K/9) vs. Andrew Cashner (2.10 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 8.13 K/9)
 
Sunday, April 27 1:35 p.m. (Jordan Zimmermann Bobblehead Day)
Taylor Jordan (6.23 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 7.06 K/9) vs. Ian Kennedy ( 3.60 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 8.4 K/9)  
 
After getting swept, salvaging a game from the Angels in a dramatic 9th inning come back, the Nats welcome the lowly San Diego Padres to town after having dropped two of three to the Brewers. Always the bridesmades, San Diego is in a tough division to make any headway and there isn’t a lot of hope their sub-.500 record will improve much. Decent starting pitching, not a great bullpen and a really bad offense. This is San Diego baseball.
 
How the Nats Win: The Padres have just scored 60 runs. Good for DFL in MLB. They have, however, only given up 70 runs, putting them just behind Atlanta and Oakland and St. Louis, tied with Milwaukee in that regard. They are a nearly .500 team because they pitching keeps them in games. The difference between road and home splits, however, is telling.
Petco park is beatiful, but its also a canyon. In 13 games at home they’ve given up 34 runs. In just 9 games on the road, they’ve given up 36. The pitching and defense starts come undone at the seams a bit when they are not in their massive stadium.
 
As such, given the pitching mismatches, the Nats are set up to take the first two games of the series. Shooting for three, and beating either Cashner or Kennedy is what this team should be expected to do. The Nats pitching, even if it hasn’t lived up to the idealized standards of the home town crowd, ought to be enough to hold down one of the weakest teams in the league offensively. If Zimmermann and Strasburg don’t dominate this lineup in games 1 and 2, be annnoyed. Be very annoyed.
 
The back half of the series is going to come down to the Nats getting a little lucky, and having some of the at bats against better pitching we’d hope to see. Getting Cashner or Kennedy out of the game early is the only hope for either Saturday or Sunday because I don’t expect Tanner Roark (who I’m willing to admit might surprise me) or Taylor Jordan (who I do not think will surprise me at all) to go toe to toe with the other two pitchers.
 
Three Padres to Watch For: The afformention Andrew Cashner is a legit starting pitcher who throws primarily fastball, slider and change up. The two-seamer and four seamer are both in that 93-94 MPH range, with huge drops to Slider (83.5 MPH) and change (84.7 MPH). If you arrange the Padres by offensive production, you see backup outfielder Chris Denorfia is at the top of the list. Filling in for the injured Carlos Quentin, Denorfia has put up a .367 wOBA (.328/.349/.492 if you’re a slash line person) in 21 games and 64 plate apperances. Lastly Jedd Gyrko (pronounced Jerk-O…not kidding) who finished 6th in the NL Rookie of the year vote in 2013 has had a brutal start to the season. He’s currently hitting .135/.226/.216 (I can’t even remember the last time I saw a guy with a smaller SLG than OBP) and .203 wOBA. He’s rated as a -7.4 Offensively right now. There is an excellent chance that this is bad luck (He has a BABIP of .176). I’m going to be watching him to see if there is actually something to the player who just signed a five year extension with San Diego, or if the MLB has caught up with with the second year player.

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann unleashes the fury. -Photo Credit @AshburnNatsFan

Jordan Zimmermann unleashes the fury. -Photo Credit @AshburnNatsFan

Name: Jordan M. Zimmermann
Nickname(s): JZ, ZNN, J-Zimm
DOB: May 23, 1986
Twitter?: Nope.
From: Auburndale, Wisconsin
Position: Starting Pitcher  Rotation: Third Pitcher
Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2007. Debuted in 2009.

Just Who Is This Guy?: Dominant and yet underrated, JZ is the Nats other hard throwing righty.  If you’ve really never heard of the Nats double N, resident cheese-head, visit the 2013 preview first.

What Happened in 2013:  Jordan Zimmermann dominated the first half of baseball in 2013. Seriously, he was a mid-season contender for the Cy Young award. Not that pitching records really mean anything (except to Cy Young voters, I guess) but in the first 81 games he had a record of 12-4 with a 2.58 ERA and .967 WHIP. ZNN was getting 5.28 strikeouts for every walk he issued, and was probably (easily) the best starting pitcher for the Nats in the first half.

The second half was a let down. While his stats weren’t truly awful (7-5, 4.33 ERA , 1.28 WHIP), they were a huge drop off from the first half of the year and represented a disappointment probably for both Jordan personally, and the team (who needed every little bit at the end.)

Overall, tho, 19 Wins (NL Leading, btw) with a 3.25 ERA, 3.36 FIP and a +3.6 fWAR for your third pitcher is nothing to sneeze at. Not by a long shot.  As Baseball Prospectus points out, Zimnn threw 18 more innings, faced 60 more batters, but threw six fewer pitches compared to his 2013 campaign. He played longer by being more efficient, and took a big step towards being the elite pitcher many think he is.

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Get To Know A Nat: Jordan Zimmermann

I call this my "A-Ha" Camera setting.

I call this my “A-Ha” Camera setting.

Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them!  Not sure where to start with player and season previews?  Not ready to jump into heavy metrics?  Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013?  Then you’ve come to the right place!

Name: Jordan M. Zimmermann
Nickname(s): JZ, ZNN, J-Zimm
DOB: May 23, 1986 (Age 26)
Twitter?: Nope.
From: Auburndale, Wisconsin
Position: Starting Pitcher  Rotation: Third Pitcher
Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2007. Debuted in 2009.

Jordan Zimmermann (never forget the second ‘N’ folks) may be the prototypical Nationals development player. The Nats were awarded compensatory draft picks in 2007 for letting the overpriced Alfonso Soriano leave as a free agent.  With an extra second round pick they picked up JZimm (Cue the “Nationals don’t much overpay for players, and have developed great talent” storyline).

Two and half years ago, JZimm was also part of the “we take care of our pitchers” storyline the Nationals like to promote.  After Tommy John surgery in 2009, JZ has slowly but surely been worked back into the rotation-foreshadowing the team’s attitude in Strasburg-Gate last year.  Although bringing JZ up to speed slowly is much easier to do in the wasteland years of 2010 and 2011 than, say, shutting down your ace in a pennant race, it’s still consistent with the Nationals philosophy now being used.  (Ask top draft pick Lucas Giolito, he’ll tell you).

This year the Nationals best-pitcher-no-one-has-heard-of will again be pitching third, behind Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg- and the Nationals will be in the midst of trying to sign JZ to a long term deal.  What makes for an excellent pitcher, however, also makes for an expensive one. In 2013, JZ will be in position to break the bank.

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Homework! What would YOU award Jordan Zimermann in Arbitration?

Jordan Zimmermann is currently the third pitcher in a rotation that is among the best (if not the best) in baseball.  He has less than six years of service but no contract going into the upcoming year.  Hence, he is eligible for arbitration.  A bunch of Nationals were actually eligible for the process, but JZ is the only one who took the team up on the offer.  That arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 19, 2013. 

What’s arbitration? We covered that a little earlier this year.  But since we have a prominent National now in the process, let’s have a little fun! JZ thinks he’s worth $5.8 Mil this year, and The Nats think he’s worth about $4.6 Mil. As we discussed previously, the arbiter is not going to pick a number between these two, but pick which he thinks is closer to the actual value of Jordan’s services for one year.  Anything over 5.2, and JZ gets his 5.8.  Anything under 5.2, Jordan gets paid the Nats number of 4.6.

Kind of like a game show: “Place your bets!”

So, let’s put YOU in the arbiter’s chair.  You’re going to pick whichever you think is the better fit salary.  From this link (explaining the process a bit more fully) it seems you can consider the following type of evidence:

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