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The Washington Nationals claimed the best record in the National League in 2014. Their dominating regular season was led by the trio of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann. Doug Fister and Tanner Roark also contributed to form arguably the best rotation in the Majors. Then, they went out and signed Max Scherzer. This entire rotation could be in the All-Star Game.
The real star of the staff this year was Jordan Zimmermann who had easily the best season of his very successful career. He posted a miniscule 2.66 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and threw for 182 strikeouts. Jordan Zimmermann has always been very successful in regards to having a low ERA and WHIP, but the strikeouts are new and have dramatically increased his value as a fantasy baseball pitcher.
His 2014 K/9 of 8.20 was a big improvement over his 7.45 career K/9. In his first three seasons as a starter, Zimmermann posted strikeout rates of 6.92, 7.04, and 6.79 from 2011 to 2013, respectively. The ability to miss bats often differentiates a good pitcher from a great one in both real and fantasy baseball.
Stephen Strasburg’s 3.14 ERA and 1.12 WHIP were not quite as impressive as Zimmermann, but his 10.13 K/9 is what makes the phenom a more desirable option. In fact, Stephen Strasburg’s 2.94 FIP and 2.56 xFIP indicate the future could be even brighter for the 26-year-old. Strasburg will be the second highest drafted starter after their newly acquired ace.
Max Scherzer will be dominant in the National League and his elite strikeout profile will make him a top 10 starter once again. Scherzer and Strasburg could seriously combine for 500 K’s in 2015. It is honestly scary how good this rotation is.
Gio Gonzalez does a lot of things right when he pitches. Most notably, he has one of the best curveballs in the game. Interestingly enough, he only threw a curve on 16.9% of his pitches in 2014. In the past, Gio Gonzalez had never thrown less than 21% of his pitches as curves. His career rate of throwing curveballs on his pitches 24.4% of the time is a far cry from 2014.
I have to wonder if the Washington Nationals wanted him to throw less curves to protect his arm, but it is hard to take away someone’s best pitch. According to PITCHf/x data, his curveball has been his best pitch. I personally think we will see a healthier Gio in 2015 throwing more curves, but I still would prefer to draft Jordan Zimmermann over him.
Tanner Bell of Smart Fantasy Baseball has created all of the projections seen in this post. You can read about how he develops his projections here. His projections are invaluable to this site. You can also visit his site at www.smartfantasybaseball.com.