Dave Nichols: Jordan Zimmermann is ace in the hole

Ho-hum.

Jordan Zimmermann threw another outstanding game last night. It's unfortunate that a defensive miscue set up the only run of the game allowed and his teammates couldn't muster an attack against the Angels in a 1-0 defeat, to drop the Washington Nationals one game below .500 exactly half-way through the 2011 baseball season.

Tell me, right now, that at the beginning of the season if someone promised you the Nats would be 40-41 at the mid-point of the season you wouldn't have taken that running away.

Regardless of the won/loss record, something bigger is happening for the Nats right now. Zimmermann is turning into a legitimate No. 2 starter right before our very eyes. And he's still in the recovery process from Tommy John surgery, which is why we should enjoy every inning he's got left on the mound this season.

His complete game effort last night with no earned runs lowered his ERA to 2.85, among the very best in the N.L. Opponents are hitting .242 off him, and his WHIP (walk = hits per nine innings) is a nifty 1.11. He's pounding the strike zone with 95-mph fastballs, late breaking sliders and drop-off-the-table curveballs that he only breaks out for special occasions.

According to Fangraphs.com, Zimmermann is really taking advantage of his excellent slider, throwing it 23.8 percent of the time , ninth most in the N.L. among starters, and throwing fastballs only 59.1 percent. The other thing is that he's throwing both pitches for strikes, and getting outs in the strike zone, the mark of truly elite pitchers.

Zimmermann's made 15 starts and thrown 94 2/3 innings so far this season, and the Nats have an innings limit for him, between 150-160, in his first full season following elbow ligament replacement. So if he averages between six and seven innings per start the rest of the way, he has about 10-11 starts left in him. Savor them. And just hope that Stephen Strasburg's recovery from the same dreaded procedure goes just as smoothly and the two can assume their rightful positions at the head of the Nats pitching rotation in 2012.

Dave Nichols covers the Washington Nationals for Nats News Network. Read Nichols' Nationals observations part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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