After a start of six scoreless innings against the Mets back on July 19, Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann spoke to Mark Zuckerman about his season, now three years removed from Tommy John surgery.
"I definitely feel stronger another year after surgery," Zimmermann said.
"Last year was hit-or-miss. I didn't know how I was going to feel. But this whole year I've been feeling great. I haven't had any aches or pains. So, knock on wood, I hope that keeps going."
Zimmermann finished 2011 - his first full season back from having the procedure in August of 2009 with a team-best 3.18 ERA through 161.1 innings, a mark that ranked 21st in the majors and 10th in the National League. But he reached that number after having his worst stretch of the season right before he was shut down.
Zimmermann struggled over the course of his final eight starts and compiled a 4.49 ERA across those outings, a total of 46.1 innings or slightly more than a quarter of his season. Through that final six weeks Zimmermann saw his season ERA jump all the way from 2.66 to 3.18.
It is logical to conclude that based on Zimmermanns 2011 numbers, and his own statements, that he just wasnt the same pitcher at the end of last season as he was for the first three months. Fast forward to this season, and Zimmermann has pitched even better in the second half.
Zimmermann holds a 2.38 ERA through 151.0 innings at the moment, the best mark in the National League. He has risen to the top with a little help from his friends (an 8 ER drubbing of Ryan Vogelsong on Monday), but mainly due to a dominant run through July and August. In seven starts since the All-Star Break, Zimmermann is 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA. His only loss came on Tuesday when he allowed just one score to the Giants.
Zimmermann is 10.2 innings away from establishing a career high for a season, there is no telling how he will pitch from the 160 innings mark to 200 or beyond. But looking at how he faded towards the end of last year, and how different the trend has been this time around, further proves the Nationals right in shutting him down in favor of arm strength and endurance in the future.