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Zimmerman leads Nats, not with words, but by example

Sep 3, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

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Ryan Zimmerman is the last guy in the Nationals clubhouse who is going to gather his teammates together and offer an impassioned plea for better play on the field. There isn’t an ounce of cheerleader in the man’s body. Never has been, never will be.

Which doesn’t mean Zimmerman can’t still be a leader of this ballclub. Leaders come in different shapes and sizes and personalities. Some lead with their words. Some lead with the example they set, both on and off the field.

And nobody has set a better example for others in the 10-year history of the Nationals than the guy who was the organization’s first-ever draft pick upon arriving in the District.

Has Zimmerman ever been criticized for lack of hustle? For not putting his team ahead of his own personal benefit? For passing blame onto others? For giving anything less than his best?

His career might be considered by some a disappointment, but that’s a result solely of the injuries he has suffered over the last decade, most notably a right shoulder that hasn’t been 100 percent since maybe 2009 and led to his well-publicized throwing woes at third base.

All those injuries, especially in recent years, have made us forget at times a significant point: Ryan Zimmerman, when healthy, is an awfully good baseball player.

Consider his average career stats over a 162-game season: A .282 batting average, 25 homers, 97 RBI, 91 runs scored, a .348 on-base percentage, .473 slugging percentage and .821 OPS. There are 11 full-time third basemen in the Hall of Fame. Only five had a career OPS higher than Zimmerman. Only three had a higher slugging percentage.

Now, this isn’t to suggest Zimmerman is going to wind up in Cooperstown some day. He won’t play enough games in his career to merit serious consideration, and his defense at third base (once legendary) deteriorated to the point it was a severe black mark on his record. He may prove to be a very good first baseman over the remainder of his career, but his offensive numbers won’t look as impressive on that side of the diamond as they did on the other.

This is only to serve as a reminder just how good a player Zimmerman is when he’s able to play. And boy has he been showing it over the last few weeks.

Wednesday night’s game in St. Louis was merely the culmination of a red-hot streak at the plate for Zimmerman. He launched two homers, including the 200th of his career, which happened to come on the 10th anniversary of his first career hit. He also drove in the winning run with an RBI double to right. In fact, all three of the runs he drove in during this game gave the Nationals the lead.

Over his last 10 games, Zimmerman is hitting .359 with seven homers, 19 RBI and a 1.346 OPS. How good is that? Well, do you remember his torrid stretch in 2012 after receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder? During his best 10-game stretch that summer, he hit .370 with four homers, 16 RBI and a 1.147 OPS. This stretch has been better.

And boy have the Nationals needed this one, especially Wednesday night. That was yet another game that was slipping from their grasp, but Zimmerman did everything he could to seize control right back.

That’s leadership. When his team needed him most, he stepped up and delivered.

Not with his words. But with his performance on the field and the example he has always set off it.

  1. NatsNut - Sep 3, 2015 at 6:28 AM

    Amen!! Boy do i love that guy!!

  2. ArVAFan - Sep 3, 2015 at 6:29 AM

    I hope they show the video of the 200th on the scoreboard tonight before the game, so we can cheer for him (and I hope I get back from this trip to NYC in time for the game: looking at you, Amtrak).

    Silver lining of having to get up at 3:30 to make this train: went to bed with the score 2-1, and woke up with it 4-3 missing all the in-game angst. May have to watch this one in the off season.

  3. alexva6 - Sep 3, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    nothing makes me happier than seeing RZimm have this kind of success. if you’d asked me a month ago did I see this coming I’d have said no.

    those that denied his leadership qualities probably said the same thing about Cal Ripken

  4. Joe Seamhead - Sep 3, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    Amazing stat:

    Bryce Harper -125 Games, 426 AB’s, 533 PA, 78RBI’s .

    Ryan Zimmerman – 91 games, 329 AB’s, 372 PA, 67 RBI’s.

    • nats106 - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:03 AM

      Got a stat on how many times Harper was driven in by Zimmerman?

    • npb99 - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:06 AM

      Yes, Harper has had a great, but also slightly odd, season. His stats the last two months are more like a leadoff hitter than a 3 or 4 hitter – lots of walks and runs, high on-base percentage. Fewer homers, and much fewer RBIs.

      • nats106 - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:22 AM

        Smart managers don’t pitch to guys that see beachballs coming in. Unless of course, you’re 30+ games over 500 and don’t give a damn because you don’t respect the team you just played.

      • bowdenball - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:50 AM

        It’s a function of two things- managers pitching around Harper back when there was nobody to drive him in, and the lengthy absences of Denard Span and Anthony Rendon at the top of the order resulting in fewer men on base for him to drive in from the 3 or 4 spot.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:12 AM

        How about a 4th thing, too ,BB? Zimmerman is knocking the snot out of the ball!

      • bowdenball - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:14 AM

        Sure, Joe. I was just talking about the comparison of his numbers to Harper’s, and Harper’s been knocking the snot out of the ball all season!

    • adcwonk - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:23 AM

      You know why? Harper is up so many fewer times (relatively) with RISP!

      Check out these stats:

      RZ, 372 PA’s: 192 with men on (52%), 126 with RISP (34%), and 180 bases empty (48%).
      Harper: 533 PA’s: 251 with men on (47%), 133 with RISP (25%), and 282 with bases empty (52%).

      So, with *161* more PA’s, Harper has had only *7* more RISP at bats. Astounding!!

      Other stats for Harper:

      leads NL in BA, and all of MLB in OBP, SLG, and OPS.

      He leads NL in WAR. His 100 walks place him second. 92 Runs scored — 2nd in NL.

      Oh, and 7 assists from RF (4th in NL).

      • npb99 - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:28 AM

        Zimm’s surge is one of the bright spots in this dismal season. If we have a healthy Rendon-Harp-RZ in the 2-3-4 spots next year, that could be very good.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:45 AM

        BB & Wonk, I in no way meant to take anything away from what Bryce has accomplished so far this year. My reason for the original post was to acknowledge what Ryan has done with his limited number of chances at the plate.

      • adcwonk - Sep 3, 2015 at 10:30 AM

        My reason for the original post was to acknowledge what Ryan has done with his limited number of chances at the plate.

        I hear ya’. But I think it’s worth pointing out (I was blown away myself) that RZ has almost just as many PA’s with RISP has Harper does already. That’s a waste of Harper’s talent!

        OTOH, perhaps batting him 3rd with a hot RZ 4th (and Werth and Rendon ahead of Harper) makes sense at this point.

  5. natsjackinfl - Sep 3, 2015 at 7:42 AM

    I can’t help but wonder what kind of explanation those people that were claiming Ryan’s power days were over due to the shoulder injury have today?

    Clearly, those of us with degenerative shoulder issues knew throwing is a problem but swinging a bat with authority wouldn’t be an issue.

    And it isn’t.

    Now the next 10 games culminating with the Sunday game in Miami, will tell the story concerning the Nats playoff aspirations.

    When the dust settles that Sunday might and the Nats are 4 or more games back, that’s when it becomes a mountain to climb.

    • unkyd59 - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:31 AM

      Amen, Jack! I’m actually looking forward to the next 5 years or so of Zim, at 1B. Did you see that DP he initiated, a couple nights ago. He’s a Professional Ballplayer.

    • Another_Sam - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:31 AM

      Right on, Jack. And what about the guys like me, who doubted that he could seamlessly make the transition to the other side of the infield? Boy has he proven me wrong.

      This year he’s even made some major league throws – one this week to the plate after running into short right field for a softly hit fly ball.

      Shows what a great ball player he is.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:38 AM

        Sam, you can count me in the camp that had doubts as to how smooth Zimm’s transition to 1B would be. Once again, I was wrong, and I am happy to admit it.

      • Section 222 - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:57 PM

        I never doubted his ability to make fielding plays at 1B. I did doubt that his arm would be “no problem.” So far he’s been fine. Only three throwing errors all year. I can live with that for sure.

  6. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    Karl said this team would go as far as Ryan would carry them…. He has been hot as fire this month, a definite welcome. Makes me think how things could have gone for him this season, had he been healthy…

    Disappointing series, but oh well… On to the braves…

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:35 AM

      Wouldn’t it be nice if the whole team got hot at once?

      BTW, I still don’t get how that ball got by Yunel Escobar in the 9th inning. The guy payed a better 3B than I thought he would for a good bit of the season, but over the past month he has really regressed. You want to win, you have to have a capable fielder at third base.

      • Another_Sam - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:38 AM

        Yes, joe. The replay looked like he could have handled it. Of course from my sofa perch, I make all the plays. Haha.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:39 AM

        edit: he “played” a better 3B

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:42 AM

        Well, I have no post season aspirations (sorry I dont believe the Nats will make it) but if everyone gets hot and gives us a show, SURE! WHY NOT… i will be at, at least 1 game a series for the remaining home games.

        Ya know what I dont get, why MW refuses to take Escobar out in the 7th/8th/9th for defensive purposes. I just knew that Anthony would move over to 3rd and Trea would go to 2nd…

        But then again… MW… and I think that says it all.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 3, 2015 at 10:28 AM

        Mrs B, I wonder if some of it isn’t just a habit from playing a lot of close games with a short bench. He seems overly preoccupied with running out of position players, IMO. You got bullets, shoot ’em. When you run out, throw the gun at them.

      • NatsLady - Sep 3, 2015 at 11:43 AM

        I think he’s tired or hurt or both. I’m not seeing the energy he had before, all the gestures and talk.

  7. pdowdy83 - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:47 AM

    Joe, I think the little nicks and small injuries have taken a toll on Escobar and his range. He has looked a bit sluggish on defense since that play in foul ground when he ran into the wall and the fan.

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      I agree, pd. That play, along with several HBPs has seemed to have affected him. I really think Anthony should be starting most games at 3B.

  8. bowdenball - Sep 3, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    If nothing else, the Nats 2016 fortunes look a LOT better if they can get 130 or so games of vintage Ryan Zimmerman. A lot of people thought we’d never see that guy again.

  9. paulfortier - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:09 AM

    Mea Culpa. I was one of those who were very hard on Zimm. I thought his career was over, that he had nothing left in the tank. How wrong was I!!!! I am really, really impress by the way Zimm plays and I understand that his poor performance (during a short period of time) was causes by his injuries not by the loss of his abilities. Kudo Zimm and, fortunately, I am not the Nationals GM 🙂

  10. jd - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    Changing the subject. I had to introduce a bit of negativity following a big win but did any one understand what MW was doing with his BP in the 7th inning? Let’s review:

    The Nats are up by 1, the Cards lineup is set up LRLRLR throughout and in that inning they have 2 left handers scheduled. Williams appropriately starts the inning with Thornton who promptly retires the 1st hitter (Heyward) on 1 pitch. At that time I thought to myself that if Thornton can just get 1 right handed hitter (Peralta) out he gets another lefty and we should be fine for this inning but no, Williams immediately brings in Treinen for Peralta. Fair enough I thought, strange but I guess with the extra pitchers we will play a full match up game. Treinen proceeds to give up a hit to Peralta, OK I thought, now we bring in a lefty for Moss, Right? no. Treinen gives up another hit to Moss and retires Pham(a righty). So I guess we are letting Treinen finish up the inning. Right? wrong again, here comes Grace (now I am in full panic mode) and another run scoring hit later we now bring in Martin who finally retires Cruz.

    Anyone follow the logic there?

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 3, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      Batty Matty logic is getting more and more difficult to follow.

      • jd - Sep 3, 2015 at 10:00 AM


        I think the logic to perform an experiment to see if we can run out of pitchers even with the call ups. To me, you let Thornton pitch to Peralta (The worst that can happen is a game tying home run), whether or not he gets him out you keep Thornton in for Moss (lefty). If you still have runners on after that you bring in Treinen to face Pham. I bet you dollars to donuts we get out of the inning with the lead and having used 2 or 3 less pitchers.

        Just because it didn’t go horribly bad doesn’t mean the decisions were right, even a blind squirrel finds the nuts sometimes. and BTW, you can’t have Escobar at 3rd base in the 9th in a 1 run game. How many times must we get hit over the head to get that notion accross? I mean Werth had to stay because of injuries. but Escobar?

    • NatsLady - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:21 PM

      I’m not as critical as you are on this. Matt hasn’t seen these guys in months, and needs to know what he has. I actually don’t look for “consistency,” as I think Matt should not fall into a habit of doing-this-when-that but rather should make the decisions according to the particular opponents, strengths/weaknesses of his pitchers, etc. This is where his lack of experience (him being, let’s face it, only a sophomore) haunts him. He needs thousands and thousands of reps and ten years to be at the level of a Bochy. I don’t fault him for experimenting; although it wasn’t the safest situation, it was the one he had in front of him.

  11. veejh - Sep 3, 2015 at 10:07 AM

    They say that hitting is contagious. Let’s hope that cliche holds true.

  12. nats106 - Sep 3, 2015 at 10:30 AM

    In other news, I just got an email from the Nationals

    For anyone interested, Yoga in the OF is back.
    Sunday, September 27 at 1:35 p.m
    Price per ticket:
    • $85 Infield Box ($135 value)
    • $55 Outfield Corner ($105 value

    • NatsLady - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:14 PM

      Not a yoga person, but I want to get the nesting dolls and, I guess, the ear buds…

      • nats106 - Sep 3, 2015 at 12:46 PM

        Are you getting to the game tonight?

      • NatsLady - Sep 3, 2015 at 3:01 PM

        Yes, leaving in about an hour.





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