Friday, October 12, 2012

Zimmermann's role reversal

Associated Press photo
Jordan Zimmermann showed rare emotion after striking out the side as a reliever.
In an airtight, 1-1 NLDS Game 4 heading into the seventh inning, Nationals manager Davey Johnson called on unlikely arm to relieve starter Ross Detwiler.

After starting Game 2 just three days before, Jordan Zimmermann came in to make the first relief appearance of his career. Zimmermann had taken the loss on Monday after giving up five earned runs in just three innings of work.

Zimmermann had seen his fastball feasted on by the same Cardinals lineup in Monday's game, but showed no hesitation in Game 4. He struck out the side on a total of 12 pitches, seven of them 97 mph fastballs.

Zimmermann ranked third in the National League during the regular season with an average fastball velocity of 93.9, but nobody had ever seen him throw that hard.

"I knew I was only going to be out there for one inning, but I wasn't trying to throw it harder," Zimmermann said. "Adrenaline just took over."

"He came in, and I mean, he was hyped," manager Davey Johnson said. "That's the hardest I've seen him throw all year.

The jump in velocity was not only seen on his fastball, but also his slider. Zimmermann hit 91 mph three times with the breaking ball, impressing teammates and coaches even more with that pitch than his heater.

"It was unbelievable, just a 91 mph nasty slider?" Detwiler said. "That was a huge shot in the arm; the crowd went crazy after the third out."

Johnson could only laugh.

"I mean, 91 mph slider? You've got to be kidding me," he said. "That's pretty good, wasn't it? Some guys in our club said: 'That's our next closer.' I said: 'No way.'"

Zimmermann finished off the seventh inning, but there was more work for the Nationals bullpen to do. Tyler Clippard spelled Zimmermann in the eighth and picked up right where he left off.

Clippard also got out of his inning on three strikeouts. He started by getting Carlos Beltran to go down swinging, then caught Matt Holliday looking. After a five-pitch walk to Allen Craig, he got Yadier Molina swinging on a 94 mph fastball.

Clippard walked off the mound with a scream and several fist pumps, another boost of energy to the Nationals and their crowd.

Drew Storen pitched the ninth and began with two strikeouts before getting Matt Carpenter to pop up to Ian Desmond. His second strikeout was the eighth consecutive out by strikeout by the Nationals' bullpen; only the 2005 Angels have matched that number in a postseason game.

"It was electric," Johnson said. "It's been that way most of the year. But in both cases, the job they did was they rose to the occasion. All of them were throwing harder than I've seen them throw."

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman acknowledged their effect on the offense and the team as a whole.

"With the way Ross threw and the way those guys threw out of the bullpen, we were like: "Come one, we can't afford to lose this game with the way they've pitched against that lineup.' That was pretty impressive."

39 comments:

Section 222 said...

Great post Chase. Good to have the bullpen's role in last night's win recognized. The MLB Network guys were all over that last night. It's the reason that lots of them are picking the Nats tonight.

One good thing -- Stammen got to rest for a night, Mattheus is rested, so is Garcia. I expect to see Clip and Store in the 8th and 9th again, but the other guys, all righties, are ready if needed. Plus E-Jax.

Of course, if Gio throws another complete game all this bullpen stuff is just academic.

Faraz Shaikh said...

oh man, are we pumped or what?

joemktg said...

That was as good of a relief appearance as we're going to see from anyone, anywhere, anytime. Simply untouchable.

natsfan1a said...

Great post and I absolutely love that photo.

Exposremains said...

Anybody woders how fast Strasburg would throw in relief?
On another note thats why relief pitchers shouldn't get a Cy Young. Not sure kimbrel and chapman would be as dominant if they were SP

Section 222 said...

Reminded me a bit of H-Rod's inning against the Braves last fall. (Remember when Brian McCann tried to bunt because he was so unhittable?) Only it actually mattered.

Section 222 said...

I think you're absolutely right Exposremains. Last night after JZnn's inning, Kilgore tweeted this:

"No offense to the relievers out there, but that kinda shows you how much easier it is to be a great reliever than a great starter."

Doc said...

Let's not forget that Stammen struck out 6 in row over 2 innings in a late season game---oh, I forgot this is the PLAYOFFS!!!!

GoooooooPen!!!! GoooooNats!!!!!!!!!!!

Faraz Shaikh said...

I think Kilgore worded that wrong. 'how difficult it is to be a great starter than a great reliever' would have been more appropriate.

A DC Wonk said...

Yep -- the energy level surged when Det got the last out in the 6th (it was a race to see which would happen first: Det completely running out of gas, or the third out in the 6th)

The crowd took it to a whole 'nother level with JZ. And it got higher after Clip's 3 K's. And even higher after Drew's inning.

Then, the 13-pitch at bat . . . the fans were already at fever pitch when Jason slammed that baby.

What fun!

I was sitting with Mrs Wonk and a couple of knowledgeable strangers. We all looked at each other, stunned, when JZ's first pitch registered 96. First pitch! And then 97 on almost all the subsequent fast balls. Yowza!

A DC Wonk said...

responding to comment from last thread:

BigCat said...

I hope you guys are right about Espi. But I am just over seeing him strike out with a man on 3rd with less than 2 outs.


BigCat -- you're just repeating the one-side-of-the-coin argument again. We all agree with that part. Nobody here is happy with Espi's hitting right now. I hate his too-many-K's, too. But we recognize (and the stats back it up) that his fielding returns twice as much as his hitting takes away.

(Not exactly in accord with my argument: but didn't Espi hit one to, or near, the warning track in each of the last two games).

(And repeating others' arguments: why pick on Espi, when Harper, Morse, and KSuz are hitting .200 or less, too. (And so is ALR for that matter))

Laddie Blah Blah said...

Feller, Gibson, Koufax, Nolan Ryan could not have been more intimidating than JZ in last night's 7th inning. After he dispatched that first guy, I'm a little surprised the next 2 had the cojones to leave the safety of their dugout and step into the batter's box against him. They could just as well have stayed in the dugout for all the good it did any of them.

Phenomenal performance.

Scooter said...

We're gonna win.

Just FYI.

Section 222 said...

Harper the blogger at Nationals Baseball makes an excellent point:

"Lance Lynn should not have been pitching then. When you get to the 9th it's basically a series of one run games, and you should go through your bullpen from best arm to worst arm (with some exceptions for what part of the lineup is up). Motte should have been used. He wasn't. The Nats made the Cardinals pay big time."

I know we've discussed this before, but I sure wish MLB managers, including Davey, would give some thought to the conventional wisdom of saving your closer on the road. It's dumb. How many walkoffs against some guy other than the closer will it take?

The best thing, of course, is to have a closer who can go two innings like Mariano Rivera. Let him pitch the 9th, and if your team can score in the 10th, stay in to save your own win.

NatsLady said...

Did you see the Werth cupcake?

ayson-werth-cupcake-is-amazing

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/wp/2012/10/12/jayson-werth-cupcake-is-amazing/

A DC Wonk said...

FWIW (which is little, but fun fact): ESPN iPhone app puts Nats as a fairly solid favorite tonight, at -145

NatsLady said...

Methany explained that he wanted to save Motte for extra innings because he had only inexperienced guys to "close" if the Cards got a lead. Apparently he was worried about nerves. I thought that was interesting.

MicheleS said...

Best picture of JZ ever.

NatsLady said...

Wonk, interesting. The site I use has them at -130 to -135 range. Most bettors say the cutoff is -140 where it doesn't pay to take a bet.

Vegas odds

http://www.vegasinsider.com/mlb/odds/las-vegas/

baseballswami said...

Someone used the correct word - intimidating. I hope he can keep some of that persona to use every time he pitches.

MicheleS said...

I need a nap

MicheleS said...

Oh and Feel Wood.. I never mentioned laundering my clothes.. Just sayin'

Section 222 said...

NL, I heard that explanation from Methany too. It just seems dumb to me. He could have saved Lynn to close if he wanted to. He often uses Motte for 4 and 5 out saves, so maybe he has Motte pitch the 9th and 10th (not sure if a double switch would have been necessary for that, I think the pitcher's spot made the last out in the 9th).

I think managers should use the same strategy in tie games away that they use at home -- use your regular 8th and 9th inning guys, then work backwards, saving a long reliever to throw until he drops if he's the last man standing in the 13th or whenever. Otherwise, you run a very big risk of losing the game with your best reliever sitting on the bench. I just don't buy that your less good relievers are more capable of keeping the game tied in extras than saving it when you get the lead.

A DC Wonk said...

Yeah -- I don't get Methany's logic either.

But:

On the other hand, Lynn pitched Werth pretty tough. If you look at the graphics -- he threw 12 terrific pitches. A bunch of them were sick, and it's a tremendous credit to Werth that he was able to foul them off. Lynn only made one single pitch anywhere near the middle of the plate.

baseballswami said...

No matter what happens tonight, any one in the national league that watched that game has now seen what they are going to be up against next year. They saw our #5 starter, who wasn't even starting at the beginning of the year in Det, our #3 starter in JZ - intimidating as all heck, they saw our set up guy, and our healthy closer, dominating. Tonight they will see the real Gio Gonzalez, and they know that Stras is on the bench until next season. Would seeing and knowing these things make you feel confident about facing the Nats next season? They also saw Desi and Jayson Werth and everyone knows Zim and Harper can play. Look our MLB and get used to seeing us in October.

baseballswami said...

I meant -- look out!!

A DC Wonk said...

Nice story on Werth's at bat:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/ben_reiter/10/11/cardinals-nationals-nlds-game-4/index.html

Candide said...

A DC Wonk said...On the other hand, Lynn pitched Werth pretty tough. If you look at the graphics -- he threw 12 terrific pitches. A bunch of them were sick, and it's a tremendous credit to Werth that he was able to foul them off. Lynn only made one single pitch anywhere near the middle of the plate.

I've often wondered why pitchers don't figure, after four or five straight foul balls to the same batter, "Yeesh, I can't strike him out and I can't make him put it into play. I'd better simply walk the guy before I make a mistake and hang one for him."

I know, don't walk the leadoff guy. But a leadoff walk is better than a leadoff walkoff.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Wow.....Girardi is sitting A-Rod for decisive game 5 today.

NatsLady said...

Candide--they do. That's why you'll see Clipp walk guys if he's in a hole and thinks he can get the next guy. I listened to a long talk by a reliever who said there's a fair amount of strategy in when you give up walks.

Lynn said later (quite graciously, I thought) that he made his best pitch, the pitch he wanted to make, and Jayson just beat him. I don't think he got tired or frustrated as sometimes happens with these battles. Jayson has an excellent eye for the strike zone.

bowdenball said...

Jonah Keri makes a great point about Zimmermann's and Tommy Hunter's outing, and what they might tell about relief pitching:

"We've seen what pitching in short relief stints can do for starters' velocity and overall performance, whether it's Tommy Hunter discovering a 100-mph fastball last month that no one knew he had in him or Jordan Zimmermann adding three ticks to his usual fastball while striking out the side in the seventh on 12 pitches. Maybe we can't evaluate players based on hypotheticals. But it always mystified me how anyone could consider relief pitchers for major awards. Because they throw ⅓ or even ¼ as many innings as the league's best starters, but also because if a journeyman fifth starter like Tommy Hunter can suddenly pitch like peak Eric Gagne (another failed starter) the minute he gets a regular bullpen gig, maybe relief pitching is much easier than we thought."

He's absolutely right. Zimmermann probably isn't among the ten best starters in the National League, and he was every bit as good as Craig Kimbrel last night

Feel Wood said...

I know we've discussed this before, but I sure wish MLB managers, including Davey, would give some thought to the conventional wisdom of saving your closer on the road. It's dumb. How many walkoffs against some guy other than the closer will it take?

You're buying into the conventional canards that closing a ballgame is no different than pitching any other high-stress inning and that "closer" and "best relief pitcher" are one and the same thing. Neither of those canards is true. As pretty much everyone in baseball will agree, getting those last three outs is a whole different animal. Not every pitcher with great stuff can handle the job. It's a different skill set. So if you have a pitcher with the closer skill set, you keep him in your pocket for a save situation as long as you can. On the road, that means you don't pitch him in the ninth inning of a tie game. Because if you do, and you end up taking the lead in extra innings, that's when you need his closer skill set.

Section 222 said...

Wonk, thanks for posting that SI link. It's a great article about the Nats and the whole game, in addition to breaking down Werth's at bat. Nice piece of writing.

natsfan1a said...

I'm about to drop here, too.

MicheleS said...

I need a nap
October 12, 2012 1:19 PM

NatsLady said...

Decided to wear the shirt I wore yesterday (one of those Eastern Division Champ shirts with the roster list on the back) -- which I didn't wash -- underneath my Gio shirt. OK, then.

JD said...


Feel Wood,

Or you lose the game with your closer sitting in the pen waiting for a save opportunity that never comes.

baseballswami said...

A nap sounds awesome but I am already jacked up. Darn those Nats, I had resigned myself after those two stinkers that, perhaps this just wasn't going to be our year. Then they gave me hope. Yesterday was one of the best games I have ever seen. It's going to be a late one tonight. Hope the crowd is loud and crazy and the team is fired up!! I need to finish my work, quit lurking online at my desk and skedaddle. Maybe my eyes will close at home for a bit if I quit watching replays of Desi's play, the eight straight strikeouts and Werth's at bat. Then again, maybe not.

Section 3, My Playoffs Sofa said...

One point re Lynn/Motte that bears noting, IMO: both ball 2 and ball 3 to Werth were closer to being strike 3 than a lot of the actual strikes called last night. He could very easily have been rung up on either one.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

To have JZim raise the bar like that energized the team.

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