Jordan Zimmermann’s continued emergence as a dominant starting pitcher has become a Pivotal Play for the Washington Nationals.
In a season where Washington has dealt with an abundance of early-season adversity, Zimmermann has been the one steadying influence for the 21-19 club. The rest of the club’s starting pitchers – even former No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg – have had their struggles.
And offensively the entire season has been one frustrating compilation of at-bats, with Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore struggling to produce and regulars like Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Wilson Ramos taking turns nursing injuries.
Through all the struggles and frustration, Zimmermann has been a radiantly shining star and comforting presence, showing up every fifth day to deliver another ace performance to make everybody on the team feel better. He has become medicine for a club that has been good, but not nearly as dominate as the pundits were expecting.
The 27-year-old pitcher has become one of the league’s most excellent starters, working to a 7-1 record while posting a 1.69 ERA after eight starts. The winner of one-third of Washington’s games so far, Zimmermann is pitch-efficient and proficient at saving the Nationals’ bullpen; he’s hurled at least seven innings in six of his last seven outings.
Zimmermann’s seven victories are the most among National League pitchers and his 1.69 ERA ranks seventh in the circuit. Only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright have stockpiled more innings of work than the Washington right-hander, who’s 0.87 WHIP is third-best in baseball.
A former second-round pick who has improved during each of his four-plus seasons in the major leagues, Zimmermann is giving the Nationals what the experts expected Strasburg or lefty, Gio Gonzalez to deliver.
Strasburg is considered one of baseball’s most revered starters because of his plus four-pitch repertoire, widely considered one of the best arsenals in the entire game – but Zimmermann has been better than Strasburg.
Gonzalez finished third in the NL in Cy Young balloting last season. The former Oakland Athletic has been dominant at times and has struggled in a few of his starts. While he’s been a solid member of Washington’s rotation, he hasn’t been Zimmermann.
Sometimes, the lesser known and less-often discussed members of a work place are the most important pieces to an organization’s success. That has certainly been the case for the Nationals so far this season.
Zimmermann takes the mound with far less national exposure and hype than the majority of the pitchers with which he shares a clubhouse. However, all Zimmermann does is post quality starts; one after another, every fifth day – like clockwork.
When the Wisconsin native took the hill in Los Angeles this week he halted a two-game National’s losing streak with a 7.2 inning gem while allowing just two runs. Earlier in the month Zimmermann started in Atlanta, halting a three-game skid while helping the Nationals win their first game against the division-rival Braves in six tries in 2013. In that victory Zimmermann threw eight dominant, shutout innings with eight strikeouts.
Zimmermann has become Mr. Consistency. When things are falling apart, he shows up with a tool belt on ready to fix whatever’s ailing Washington. His eight tremendous starts have been a Pivotal Play this season.
This week’s Pivotal Play is whether the Washington Capitals star-winger Alexander Ovechkin can get back to creating quality scoring opportunities in the team’s ongoing postseason series with the New York Rangers.
If the team’s captain – the NHL’s leading goal-scorer in the regular season and one of the top contenders for the league’s MVP award – is able to re-capture the lamp-lighting ability that carried Washington to a Southeast Division championship, the Capitals will pass the test they’re currently being administered by the underdog-Rangers.
Ovechkin has had a phenomenal season, finishing atop the entire league in goals scored (32), power play tallies (16), goals created (23), and scoring chances (220). After a pair of down seasons, Ovechkin returned to form as one of hockey’s most feared skaters and lethal offensive assassins.
To the 27-year-old Russian’s credit, he began the 2013 postseason as an impact offensive player as well. Ovechkin scored in the Capitals’ game-one win at the Verizon Center, then assisted on the club’s only goal in a thrilling 1-0 overtime triumph in game-two last Saturday.
Through two games, both Washington wins, Ovechkin had tallied multiple points while firing 12 shots on net. He was creating scoring opportunities while also playing a physical brand of hockey that saw him deliver seven big hits in the team’s game-two victory.
But as the series shifted to New York, the Rangers’ defense was able to focus more of its attention on the 230-pound speed-skater, and the result has been a frustrating pair of games.
Ovechkin managed to get a total of three shots on net in games three and four at Madison Square Garden. Not surprisingly, Washington lost both games and that’s the point of this week’s Pivotal Play.
With Ovechkin contributing points and scoring goals, Washington is much more dangerous to its opponents. But when clubs are able to slow him down – like New York did while pulling even in the best-of-seven series with back-to-back wins on Monday and Wednesday night respectively – the Capitals aren’t the same team.
If Ovechkin can elevate his play for an extended playoff stretch, throwing the Capitals on his shoulders like the elite leaders often find a way to do in the postseason, Washington’s two recent losses will be a footnote in the book ultimately written about the 2012-2013’s memorable run.
There is no play more pivotal to the fellas rocking the red than those made by Ovechkin. When Washington gets back to the Verizon Center on Friday evening, they will need the ‘great eight’ to get back to lighting the lamp the way he did all season.
Pivotal Player: ANCILE Solutions Recognized for Revolutionary Approach to Providing Customer Service
Effective customer service is the cornerstone of any successful business. Though for many technology companies, customer service often takes a back seat and it’s often very difficult to even get a live person on the phone whenever trouble-shooting is necessary.
ANCILE Solutions, a global provider of learning and performance software solutions to the largest corporations, has taken the exact opposite approach by bringing customer service to unprecedented heights.
The organization empowers its support staff to be trusted advisors to its users at all times. Each member of the ANCILE Solutions’ support team has their own online page with their own personalized photos and contact details available – so its software users really get to know the them.
In addition to launching a blog to serve as an additional communications channel with customers, the company takes a team-based approach to hiring and training its employees. These integration efforts have translated into happier and more productive customer service representatives. As a result, customers know they are dealing with passionate service reps who are willing to go above-and-beyond when it comes to tending to their needs.
As a result of these efforts, ANCILE Solutions has been awarded with three Bronze People’s Choice Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, which is clearly a Pivotal Play. The company rose above more than 1,000 competitive submissions and has been duly noted for effectively tending to the needs of more than 3,500 customers.
The Pivotal Plays editorial team recently interviewed Mike Domingues, Director of Customer Relationship Management at ANCILE Solutions, who shared his organization’s secrets to customer service success.
In addition, Steve Conger, a Pivotal Plays Ambassador and Vice President at Lockton Companies, joined in on this lively discussion about the role of customer service and how it is vital for any organization.
Below is the full podcast interview:
The Washington Capitals turned in this week’s Pivotal Play in their game-one victory over the New York Rangers in the quarterfinal round of the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs.
Tied at a goal apiece midway through the second period, Washington faced a 5-on-3 penalty kill for 56 seconds. Had the Rangers have found a way to beat Braden Holtby with a goal while operating with a two-man advantage, the visitors would have taken their second lead of the game while recapturing the momentum of the contest.
Rather than allowing New York to cash in, Washington’s special teams unit came up with one of its most pivotal penalty kills of the season, prohibiting the Rangers from taking control of the game while seizing momentum and reinvigorating a sold-out Verizon Center crowd with every clock-milking dump of the puck across center ice.
The Capitals were forced to kill the 5-on-3 in the wake of a pair of penalties assessed 56 seconds apart – a boarding call on second-line winger Martin Erat and an interference call on third-liner Eric Fehr.
With just under two minutes after Fehr served his time in the penalty box, speed-skating Marcus Johansson got behind New York’s defense for a breakaway tally that gave Washington its first lead of the game. The Capitals wouldn’t relinquish that advantage for the remainder of the evening.
In fact, 46 seconds after Johansson scored the fourth playoff goal of his career, Jason Chimera celebrated his 34th birthday by beating Henrik Lundqvist with a turnaround, off-balance shot the goal-tender never saw.
Both of Washington’s goals led to euphoria inside the Verizon Center, but it was the preceding penalty kill – which kept the score knotted at one – that worked the crowd into a frenzy, turning a nervous Verizon Center into a raucous building.
“Those were some real tough minutes,” Fehr said about the penalty he had to serve. “It felt like a half an hour. The guys did a great job killing it that was a big turning point for us. We killed it and we scored right after, that was the key to the game.”
Washington’s epic penalty kill was particularly impressive based on the team’s struggles in that area during the regular season. The Capitals ended the regular season having posted a 77.9 penalty kill percentage, which ranked 27th among the league’s 30 teams.
But on opening night of Washington’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance, the Caps’ penalty kill was flawless, including that massive 56-second stretch of 5-on-3 hockey.
That crucial stretch fueled the team’s game-one win and that’s why Washington’s penalty killing unit is deserving of this week’s Pivotal Play.
The Washington Redskins will be making this week’s Pivotal Play tonight, when the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft take place in New York City.
The Redskins are the reigning NFC East champions and are coming off a 10-6 season that saw their organization encounter a renaissance led by quarterback Robert Griffin III. While the team’s defense made several big plays during a seven-game winning streak to end the 2012 season, the Redskins enter this weekend’s draft knowing they still need plenty of help in the secondary.
The most pivotal decision Washington can make with its second round selection would be to bolster a defensive backfield that needs more play-making and ball-hawking ability. One of the team’s biggest deficiencies last year was defending the pass, where the Redskins just didn’t have deep enough personnel to provide quality coverage against some of the league’s more prolific passing teams.
The Redskins ranked 30th against the pass last season, allowing 281.9 passing yards per game. What’s worse was that the club’s defense was haunted by big plays, yielding 11 gains of 40 or-more yards – the fifth-worst total in the league.
The team was plagued by poor play at free safety last season and 2012 starter Madieu Williams is still a free agent. Currently, an ideal option as a free safety starter in 2013 does not exist on the team, where many of the team’s problems defending the pass occurred. Washington could dramatically benefit from the addition of a free safety with one of its first picks this weekend.
But in addition to safety, the cornerback position is also in need of quality depth.
Starters Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall are not under contract beyond this season, and Cedric Griffin, the team’s third cornerback from a year ago is no longer with the team. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer EJ Biggers was added as a backup. He will compete with a couple of less-experienced corners for playing time behind Hall and Wilson.
While the Redskins did win their first division championship in 13 years, it is important to note that last year’s first-place finishing team was also 3-6 at one point. There are still several areas on the roster in need of improvement, especially in the wake of an offseason that saw Washington handcuffed by an $18 million NFL-enforced salary cap penalty.
The smartest play for the Redskins will be to use one, or both, of their first two draft picks, in the second and third rounds respectively, on defensive backs. If the team is able to add a cornerback and a safety with two of its early selections, it will have selected a secondary duo that will have a chance to contribute in 2013 and perhaps start in future seasons.
The NFL draft is always of massive significance for NFL teams. For a team like the Redskins, who weren’t able to spend the way they would have liked to improve during free agency, this weekend’s draft is even more pivotal to their success than usual.
On January 11, 2010, the western hemisphere experienced the worst natural disaster in recent memory when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the heart of Haiti. More than, 200,000 people were killed and millions more were injured and displaced.
The country faced a reconstruction effort that could take decades to complete and the initial response that ensued from governments and charity organizations was tremendous. However, today, only three years after the earthquake, and one of the most significant challenges facing Haiti today is declining donor interest in the country.
Fortunately though, there are organizations that are continuing to help rebuild the infrastructure of Haiti, and one of those is the American College of Radiology (ACR).
Much of the healthcare infrastructure in Haiti’s capital and largest city, Port-Au-Prince, was destroyed by the earthquake including radiology equipment, supplies, and teaching materials that help support day-to-day care, which were already very limited before the earthquake.
Last month, the ACR, along with the World Federation of Pediatric Imaging, the Society for Pediatric Radiology, the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound, and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers gathered in Port-au-Prince to provide a series of educational lectures and hands-on ultrasound training at “Radiology Education Days” to 100 radiologists, pediatricians and physicians from Haiti.
The series is part of the ACR’s ongoing commitment help the Haitian medical community to rebuild and restore its radiology infrastructure. There is a tremendous need for basic radiology education, which can help detect medical conditions that range from tuberculosis to malnutrition to fractures and breaks.
Read more detail about this successful mission on ACR’s Haiti blog.
Of all the nations in the Western Hemisphere, none faces greater challenges to improve its healthcare system than Haiti. Thanks to organizations like ACR, our Pivotal Player of the week, Haiti has a chance to continue rebuilding their medical infrastructure through radiological training and support.
The Washington Wizards just concluded another disappointing season in which the team lost over 50 games, missing the playoffs for the fifth year straight.
While the team’s fans may be disappointed with the results of the season, there were more positive outcomes and reasons for hope over the past several months than there were in the team’s previous four season losing streak.
This week’s Pivotal Play goes to Wizards point guard, John Wall, who broke through as a difference-making future all-star in Washington this season, showing the promise and play-making ability that made him the NBA’s unrivaled number one draft pick back in 2009.
Wall didn’t just make strides as a pass-first point guard, creating chances to score for his teammates, as well as himself, his biggest improvement this season, but he also grew dramatically as a leader.
Take, for example, his recent comments to Michael Lee of the Washington Post about his contract status.
“You want to get all you can, make your money and that’s what I’m going to do, make as much I can,” Wall told the Post, just days after saying he thought he was good enough to warrant a maximum-contract.
“But I also want to make sure that everything with my teammates is getting better, that my team is getting better. If it’s me making the money I’m making and we’re still losing it’s not fun. You get paid to win, paid more for being in the playoffs. I just love the game and want to win. That’s the main thing.”
Wall, 22, stating that he would take less money if it meant that he would be surrounded with more talent is exuding the type of team-first thinking you need from your franchise players. That quote also goes a long way towards showing that he is aware of his standing with the team and is always thinking about his teammates.
On the court, Wall spent the second half of the season becoming one of the NBA’s most exhilarating point guards to watch. He scored 20 or more points in five of Washington’s first seven April games while posting nine double-doubles in the final month of the season.
For the season, Wall averaged two more points-per-game (18.4) than he ever had before while also dishing out 7.7 assists per competition. He also turned the ball over less (3.25 per game) than he ever had during his four-year NBA career.
At the beginning of this season there were questions about the then-injured point guard’s future as an elite player. Could he be a franchise-altering talent? Was he going to make the players around him better? Could he score enough as a point guard to become an elite player at his position? When you fast forward to April, even after a disappointing year for the Wizards, the answer to all of those questions is now a resounding, “yes.”
This week’s Pivotal Player is John Wall, who has come a long way both on the court and in the locker room since the start of the season.
Now more than ever, the convergence of data analytics and player scouting is allowing professional sports franchises to break new boundaries when it comes to talent acquisition.
This “Moneyball-Style” approach has been embraced by the NFL and has extended into different aspects of the franchises — from using data analytics to drive merchandise sales to injury prevention.
The Washington Nationals recently announced that it is developing a new player evaluation system that combines scouting reports, key statistics and video. The unique system, being designed in partnership with Bloomberg Sports, will allow National’s scouts to access this information seamlessly on mobile devices and lap tops.
“We have a need in our business today to manage data quickly and efficiently to make sure we are maximizing the performance of all our assets on and off the field. No one can help us manage all that data more effectively than Bloomberg Sports,” said Mike Rizzo, Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager, in a recent press release.
As many scouts spend most of their days on the road meeting with new prospects, this new system will allow them more flexibility, as well as have the player insights they need to make the right strategic decisions on the fly. In addition, all of the National’s scouts have been provided iPads for using this system.
The Nationals built their current player evaluation database from the ground up. However, the organization realized that it needed the right technology partner to help bring this system to the next level.
Bloomberg Sports is bringing its programming and data analytics skills to make this system fully functional. The organization is also working with the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago Cubs to develop similar player evaluation systems.
For bringing enhanced efficiencies to its organization, as well as leveraging data analytics in a mobile environment for player scouting, we are naming the Washington Nationals as this week’s Pivotal Player.
Pivotal Player: PureMadi Addresses Global Health Crisis By Bringing Clean Drinking Water to Developing Countries
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes – with 99 percent of these deaths occurring in the developing world. As Water.org recently pointed out, this number is the equivalent to the entire population of the Los Angeles area.
In addition, 780 million people lack access to clean water sources. Clearly more needs to be done to address this global health crisis.
Fortunately, PuriMadi, a nonprofit organization at the University of Virginia, is working to provide sustainable solutions to the global water crisis. The organization has developed an innovative ceramic water filter, called the MadiDrop, which disinfects water for communities that have little or no access to clean water.
The filter, coated with a thin solution of silver or copper nanoparticles, disinfects waterborne pathogens that cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. Testing of the filter revealed that 99.9 percent of the pathogens are removed or killed.
Already being used in communities in South Africa, MadiDrops are made with local clay, sawdust, and water and are mixed and pressed into a mold that is shaped like a flowerpot.
This unique product can significantly help those with compromised immune systems, such as people living with AIDS. More than 12 percent of South Africans have HIV, and millions more suffer each year from waterborne diseases.
In addition, the organization’s “filter factory” can become a sustainable business venture that provides economic stimulus to a local community. A small percentage of the profits go back to PureMadi and will be used to help establish more factories around the world.
MadiDrops are even being considered for use in rural areas of developed countries such as the United States where people rely on untreated well water.
For its efforts to provide clean drinking water solutions to many communities around the world, as well as creating potential jobs with its production facilities, PureMadi is our Pivotal Player of the week.
PODCAST: Don King, Chief Production Officer at Walker & Dunlop, Discusses Significance of Being Named Top DUS Lender by Fannie Mae
Each year, Fannie Mae publishes the list of lenders that produced the highest volume through its Delegated Underwriting and Servicing (DUS) platform. The DUS program plays a significant role in the multifamily housing market with a model that provides effective and reliable financing solutions.
As a DUS lender since the program’s inception in 1988, Walker & Dunlop has moved from being the #10 producer in 2007 to the #1 spot in 2012. Jumping from the #10 slot to the #1 slot – in five short years — is a major Pivotal Play.
Following is an exclusive Pivotal Plays podcast with Don King, Executive Vice President & Chief Production Officer at Walker & Dunlop. Mr. King discusses how the company achieved this milestone by taking Walker & Dunlop public, as well as through massive growth through two acquisitions.
While many companies deal with culture challenges in a post-acquisition climate, Walker & Dunlop was able to maintain its unique and collaborative work environment, which allowed it to be highly nimble — especially during a time when the business scaled up at a dramatic pace.
Be sure to check out the full podcast below.