Repeat after me: Jordan Zimmermann is young. He will struggle. Expectations must be kept reasonable. New York City is a long way from Auburndale, Wisconsin.
Nationals fans have shown a troubling tendency to hate their best players, which is common for bad teams. People get on Ryan Zimmerman because he's not David Wright. Lastings Milledge merely leads the team in home runs at age 23, but a celebratory whoop! went up in many quarters when he went down to AAA. In Cincy, people booed Adam Dunn for drawing walks with runners in scoring position. There's a group that can't wait for Dukes to screw up. And probably the nastiest manifestation of this phenomenon is the way people seem to blame guys like Nick Johnson and Shawn Hill for their terrible luck with injuries.
So before Flash Jordan hits the skids, as he will, let's remind ourselves that almost all pitchers struggle at his age. Tom Glavine had a 9-21 record and a 4.76 ERA over his first two seasons. Greg Maddux had a 5.61 ERA in his first full year. It's going to happen. And when he struggles, there will be fans who say he stinks, send him down, he's mentally weak, blah blah blah. Those folks are best ignored.
OK, with that out of the way, you can check out my preview of the series here for breakdowns on the New York hitters and bullpen. Here's my look at the Mets' starter for the series finale and prediction.
On the Mound
Oliver Perez: The Loopy Lefty is an extreme flyball pitcher with strikeout stuff and a walk rate over 12%. Continuing the theme of this post, if you're trying to figure out why a pitcher like this is so inconsitent, it's not his mental make-up. Flyballs become outs more frequently than any other type of batted ball. But, they also become home runs about one every ten times. If you're also putting guys on first base a lot, you get a pattern that either seems like you have a canny ability to wriggle out of trouble or you give up long balls and end up with a real ugly line. And that's all within the same range of pitcher skill level.
Guys like this also tend to throw a lot of pitches and not go deep in games, which can be frustrating for fans, but again it's just what his skill set allows. All things considered, Perez is a pretty good mid-rotation starter.
He's struggled in the early going, posting a 7.80 ERA. He's walking 16.9%, which is a sky-high number even for him. But he's also only stranded 52.9%, and even bad pitchers will strand closer to 70% over time. His .323 BABIP against is 30 points over his career average, and as a flyballer that number will fall. The velocity on his fastball is down a tick from the low-90s, where he worked last year.
Perez brings a four-seam fastball, slider, and change. Look for him to use the change as the out pitch against righties and the slider against lefties. Righties hit him a good bit better than lefties.
Season record: 12-5
At the start of the series I had this pegged as a game the Scats would win. Now, the losing has beaten me down a bit, and I'm thinking twice. It's a Sunday against a lefty, so that means that the groundballing Zimmermann will probably have Dunn manning first with Willingham, Dukes, and Kearns in the outfield. That would be less worrisome if we didn't have chronic throwing problems from our 3B and SS.
OK, enough waffling. I'll stick to my guns. Zimmermann labors a bit and sees his ERA rise, but keeps the Nationals in the game. Our bats show up and the Nationals win a close one, 6-5.