Jordan Zimmermann starts tonight in what is not more than his 4th to last start of the year. We've heard that he is going to be capped in his innings somewhere in the 150 to 160 range and right now he sits at 138.33 (can I take a moment here to tell you how much I hate the shorthand 138.1 and 138.2 type of numbers for pitchers? I hope so, because I just did) If he starts 4 more times and averages 6 innings a start (a bit low for Jordan but I imagine they'll be looking for quicker hooks) that'll put him at ~162 innings. It'll also take him right up into September call-up time, which is a convenient time to replace him in the rotation with someone brought up in the expanded roster.
(For the sake of info - the 17th vs Reds, 22nd vs D-backs, 27th @ Reds)
The end could come a start earlier though. Jordan had two of his worst starts of the season in the past month, and while he's bounced back from those another one might signal to the team that his arm is getting a bit tired. The last 3 starts are during one long stretch of games, meaning no chance to give Jordan an extra day of rest. Plus that last game is on the road, if they shut down Jordan early then he doesn't necessarily have to come along with the team, maybe stay behind and work on his season cool-down, I guess. I don't know.
How as Jordan been? Fantastic.
He's 16th in the majors in pitcher WAR. 6th in the league in K/BB ratio. 4th in walks given up. While some things have gone his way a little bit, other things haven't and the fancy stats like FIP, XFIP, tERA all agree that his ERA (23rd in the majors) is no fluke. He's legitimitely been a solid #2 guy this season at 25. He's got time to get better and while he could be injured again it's likely not to happen in the next couple of critical seasons.
Zimmermann has come back from injury and basically given the Nats the type of season they hoped for from him when healthy. If Strasburg can duplicate ZNN's return - that means the Nats will have a 1-2 that can rival nearly any teams next year (at least starting in mid to late May. Why starting in mid to late May? Because if they think they have a shot at the playoffs they are going to make sure that Strasburg's innings count doesn't force him to be pulled from the rotation during the stretch run. Of course a win in April is the same as a win in September, but try telling that to a fan who's watching Maya give up 6 runs in Strasburgs spot the last week of the season with the Nats 2 games out of the Wild Card.)
Taking another look at my 2012 rotation post - you could even say Lannan is covering that 3rd spot in the rotation. Believe in him or not - he's gone under 3.90 in 3 out of 4 seasons and the 4th one he was injured. I will note that the ERA for a Top 5 NL rotation has dropped a bit to 3.70 but given the little bit better ZNN will likely be than the 3.30 I wanted from the #2, it's quite feasible the Nats could get this Top 5 rotation with a couple of mediocre performances from the #4 and #5 guys. Maybe you can get that from what they have right now or a low-priced FA signing. Which is good because the 2012 class is weak in pitching. The 2013 looks to be stronger and it's a big signing then, with full season Strasburg and maybe another pitcher developed, that could push the Nats to legit NL East contenders.