Since Jordan Zimmermann came back from Tommy John surgery in August 2010 — one year after having his elbow ligaments repaired — he has made two National League All-Star teams, the second coming this season with the announcement Sunday he would be part of the NL staff in next week’s midsummer classic.
Since Jordan Zimmermann came back from Tommy John surgery in August 2010, he has posted a record of 46-34 with a 3.15 ERA in 115 starts, including a 19-9 record in 2013. He has a 6-4 record this year, and in his last seven starts, he’s won three and thrown 17 scoreless innings on his way to being named NL Pitcher of the Week.
I don’t know — after all, there are no guarantees — but maybe, just maybe, the Nationals‘ controversial plan to shut down Zimmermann after 161 innings pitched in his first full season coming back from elbow surgery might have actually been the right thing to do.
That might disappoint the hordes of critics who attacked the Nationals for shutting down a pitcher who appeared to be perfectly healthy when he made his last start on Aug. 28, 2011 against Cincinnati.
Remember the furor when the Nationals had the nerve to limit Zimmermann’s innings as part of the plan they came up with for a successful recovery from Tommy John surgery? They were vilified for having the nerve for protecting the health of a player over the interests of the organization and its fans. There was still a month left in the season. People had bought tickets at Nationals Park expecting to get their money’s worth, and now the Nationals‘ best pitcher was being shut down — an unprecedented move.
Still, to this day, the franchise is criticized for shutting down Zimmermann. It remains a hot button issue to this day — even after two All-Star teams, 46 wins and 705 innings pitched.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m trying to make a point here.
Jordan Zimmermann being shut down in 2011 to limit his innings as part of the Tommy John recovery was the proverbial tree-in-the-woods situation — if you shut down a healthy pitcher just to protect him because of the fear of injury, and no one is paying attention, then is it the wrong thing to do?
Of course, the circumstances when Washington shut down Stephen Strasburg the following season — coming back from his Tommy John surgery, following the Jordan Zimmermann plan — were much different, critics would argue. The Nationals were in a pennant race. They were heading into the playoffs. They had a chance to go all the way and win the World Series. Shutting down a pitcher under those circumstances was a crime, they said.
I’m not going to argue the merits of the Strasburg shutdown yet again. With each passing Strasburg start since he came back — 485 innings pitched, a 31-21 record — the merits of the shutdown speak for themselves.
But often overlooked in all the debate about Strasburg was the fact that this was the recovery plan the organization came up with for the pitcher who preceded Strasburg in the surgery and recovery path — not a Scott Boras client, I point out, taking the legs out of yet another shot by the shutdown critics.
Not enough has been made of the Zimmermann shutdown, in this sense — what if the Nationals had gone to Strasburg in 2012, and said to him, “Look, we followed this recovery plan with Jordan Zimmermann, and so far it has worked pretty well. But we can’t do that with you because we have a chance to win the World Series. We didn’t compromise his future, but we have to compromise yours.”