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Roster review: Ryan Zimmerman

Oct 15, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images

Age on Opening Day 2016: 31

How acquired: 1st round pick, 2005 draft

MLB service time: 10 years, 32 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $14 million

Contract status: Signed for $14 million in 2016, $14 million in 2017, $14 million in 2018, $18 million in 2019, $18 million club option or $2 million buyout in 2020, free agent in 2021

2015 stats: 95 G, 390 PA, 43 R, 86 H, 25 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 73 RBI, 1 SB, 33 BB, 79 SO, .249 AVG, .308 OBP, .465 SLG, .773 OPS, 4 E, -2.2 UZR, 0.7 WAR

Quotable: “I know he wants to play a full season. And boy, if he can do that, it can be pretty impressive.” — Matt Williams on Ryan Zimmerman

2015 analysis: This was supposed to be the year Ryan Zimmerman rediscovered himself. No longer worried about making throws across the diamond from third base, he would excel at first base and get more at-bats because of less wear and tear on his body. Except it didn’t work out that way.

Zimmerman, like others in the Nationals’ lineup, struggled through most of April. Then once he did get hot in May, he suffered yet another in a long list of nagging injuries that ultimately hindered his ability to play to full potential. This time, it was plantar fasciitis, which he tried to play through for a few weeks but wound up requiring another lengthy DL stint (seven weeks).

Unlike others who needed time to find their stroke following a long absence from the lineup, Zimmerman hit well right away. Then he really took off in late August, hitting .435 with six homers, 18 RBI and a 1.330 OPS over an 11-game stretch … before another nagging injury knocked him out again. A strained oblique muscle didn’t land Zimmerman on the DL, but it did prevent him from playing in any of the Nats’ final 25 games.

And so another season went in the books with the longtime face of the franchise unable to appear in enough games to allow him to put together the numbers he has proven he can post when healthy. He finished with the lowest batting average, on-base percentage and OPS of his 11-year career.

2016 outlook: It’s pretty simple at this point: If he can just stay on the field enough to play 140-plus games (something he has done only twice in the last five years), Zimmerman will be a highly productive player and a force in the middle of the Nationals’ lineup. Can he actually do that? That’s where things are no longer simple.

Zimmerman spoke of a renewed emphasis on conditioning this winter, recognizing that what worked for him in his 20s probably won’t work for him in the 30s. He wants to report to spring training with increased flexibility, among other things, trying to avoid the kind of muscle strains that have hurt him in the past.

That said, many of Zimmerman’s significant injuries have been flukes that can’t be prevented with better conditioning (broken thumb, plantar fasciitis). So the Nationals can’t simply assume he’ll avoid the DL in 2016. What they’ll need to decide is whether they’re comfortable enough with Clint Robinson as Plan B at first base, or whether they need to bolster their bench with a more proven bat.

  1. jfmii - Oct 15, 2015 at 8:00 AM

    Pulling for Zim to beat the injury bug.

  2. chaz11963 - Oct 15, 2015 at 8:57 AM

    I really don’t see any moves or changes here. There are too many other weaknesses that need to be fixed. Zim and CRob are perfectly good at 1B. Should Zim go down again for a lengthy period, they will need to make a move.

  3. JayB - Oct 15, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    They needed to make that move this past year and did not…..What is points out is that Rizzo and Lerners have not learned to make moves in season that are needed and yes cost money or prospects…..this has to change because Werth and Zim and Rendon are all going to get hurt and miss large parts of the season….it is going to happen and you can not trade two of them and Rendon’s trade value is low after yet another injury year. Sell high on him when you can.

    • natsguy - Oct 15, 2015 at 9:21 AM

      What? Sell Rendon high? What?

  4. ArVAFan - Oct 15, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    Funny how last year we were so worried that Ryan wouldn’t be able to handle the transition to first base. Now we’re worrying that he won’t be on the field to handle first base.

    I’m with Chaz: RZim and CRob are a respectable first base. Spend the money elsewhere–like on a bullpen, specifically including a non-choking closer.

    • natsguy - Oct 15, 2015 at 9:38 AM

      The non-choking could be taken two ways.

      • adcwonk - Oct 15, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        + 2 !!

      • infideljack - Oct 15, 2015 at 10:35 AM

        hahahahahaha +5

      • npb99 - Oct 15, 2015 at 11:25 AM

        Thanks for the morning chuckle!

      • natsfan1a - Oct 15, 2015 at 1:02 PM

        It could. On first reading, I took it to reference on-the-field choking. Too bad that with our current roster, it’s possible to take it another way. (Please correct that, Mike. ‘kay, thanks.)

      • Joe Seamhead - Oct 15, 2015 at 3:19 PM

        OK, natsguy, you owe me a beer, because I just spit a Sam Adams Octoberfest across my desk.

      • veejh - Oct 15, 2015 at 3:44 PM

        I don’t know why that took me so long to get. We’ll played, sir.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 15, 2015 at 4:36 PM

      • natsguy - Oct 15, 2015 at 4:42 PM

        Joe,

        I would gladly pay you a virtual beer. It gave me great pleasure.

        Nats Guy

    • ArVAFan - Oct 15, 2015 at 3:57 PM

      You’re welcome.

      It was absolutely intended to be taken both ways.

      Joe, I’ll buy you a beer next time we meet.

  5. edbrinkman - Oct 15, 2015 at 9:53 AM

    Zim, ‘when healthy’ is the Nats 1st baseman. He plays great defense and can carry a team with his bat when hot. No liability with him other than his proneness to injury. That’s not true of JW. He is a liability in the OF defensively and is not the hitter RZ is. I’d platoon JW with another left fielder from the farm system – a MAT type ‘up and comer’.

    • bowdenball - Oct 15, 2015 at 9:58 AM

      Call me a dreamer if you must, but I feel like if we all come together and give it our best shot, we might live to see the day where there’s a Nats Insider post that doesn’t trigger complaints about Jayson Werth in the comments.

      What do you guys think it will take?

      • adcwonk - Oct 15, 2015 at 10:01 AM

        A combination of triple crown and gold glove? 😉

      • jfmii - Oct 15, 2015 at 10:09 AM

        Amen, Bowdenball

    • infideljack - Oct 15, 2015 at 10:37 AM

      Platoon him with denDekker. We need to see more of him.

      • jd - Oct 15, 2015 at 10:55 AM

        Yeah, that’s not happening.

      • donniebenth - Oct 15, 2015 at 11:38 AM

        I’d open up the checkbook for Jason Heyward.

        We need a legit middle of the order left handed bat and he plays great defense. In the outfield, mix and match Werth, Harp, MAT and Heyward.

        Gives us a ton of flexibility – speed, power; right, left.

        Then overspend on a reliever – either set up man or closer and hope a few things work out – Stammen comes back heathy, and/or Drew gets his head right and/or someone like Rivero makes the leap. If our BP is still underperforming, make a trade or two mid season.

        Out of left field idea – improve battery by signing Wieters.

      • jd - Oct 15, 2015 at 12:11 PM

        donniebenth,

        Agree on Heyward provided the Card don’t lock him up before he hits free agency. I think that much of our bullpen issues had to do with bullpen management.

        Constructing a bullpen is hard and not straight forward, I’ll give you an example. The Royals acquired Wade Davis in a trade where he certainly wasn’t the central piece, he came to KC as a middle of the road starter and became over time an MLB top 3 closer. It’s not as simple as throwing money at the issue, it’s identifying the right pitcher and getting lucky. Rizzo thought that Barrett and Treinen had the tools to be that guy but they failed throughout the year. All in all Storen was the best closer we have had over the past 4 years but the events of the past year make it unlikely that he’l ever succeed in DC (perhaps with a new manager).

      • Section 222 - Oct 15, 2015 at 5:22 PM

        +1 jd. Some people are quick to suggest platooning a power hitting RH batter with a light hitting LH batter. Unfortunately, in a platoon, a lefty gets to play 2/3 to 3/4 of the time. You are never going to see a healthy Zim or Werth getting that little time on the field.

        On the other hand, I’m a firm believe in regular rest for our regular players, especally those who are injury prone and getting on in age. I hope the new manager is too. If you look at the teams left in the playoffs, a whole lot of them give starts, even in the playoffs to bench guys, taking advantage of lefty-righty splits and matchups with particular pitchers. If done based on solid analysis, this can help the team alot.

    • trfwans - Oct 15, 2015 at 11:37 AM

      Q: What do you call the guy who finishes last in his class in medical school?

      A: Doctor.

      Q: What do you call the guy who finishes last in some list of bogus pseudo-stat defensive metrics?

      A: A major leaguer.

    • senators69 - Oct 15, 2015 at 4:05 PM

      Little Eddie Brinkman! Loved you in 1969 and 1970!
      Hated it when they traded you to the Tigers.
      RIP, my friend.

      • senators5 - Oct 19, 2015 at 12:50 AM

        I actually knew Ed Brinkman back then and saw him a couple of years after he retired at a Senators reunion in Bethesda, He said he was thrilled to get traded out of Wash. because Ted Williams was driving him crazy about his hitting and would actually call him at home to ‘talk” hitting at all hours of the night or day. He did say Williams was a great batting instructor but simply never knew when to quit..

  6. bigcat492 - Oct 15, 2015 at 11:29 AM

    I’ll tell ya, after watching these young, athletic teams in the playoffs, its quite clear the Nats would of gotten hammered if they had luckily made the post season. We are an old, rudderless, lifeless team now.

    “World Series or bust!!!”

    “Where’s my ring!!!”

    • trfwans - Oct 15, 2015 at 11:48 AM

      Of the five teams still alive, I’d agree that the Cubs and maybe the Royals are young and athletic. But the Dodgers, Mets and Blue Jays sure aren’t.

    • dcfaninecuador - Oct 15, 2015 at 1:04 PM

      Average age, in 2015, of:
      Blue Jays…29.3
      Royals… 29.4
      Dodgers…29.4
      Mets… 27.9
      Cubs… 28.3

      Nats… 28.5

      Maybe a clue is in order for you. Maybe rudderless (after all, they have no manager at the moment) so I’ll give you that. Lifeless but only after their season was lost. They need to get lucky and find a reliable middle reliever and a confident closer (who,is a good clubhouse guy). And obviously, a manager who,can relate to these “old” players.

      • bowdenball - Oct 15, 2015 at 1:46 PM

        +1.

        Amazing how many people write things that are wrong in the age of google. How long did that take to look up, maybe a minute?

      • nats106 - Oct 15, 2015 at 2:32 PM

        I really had sworn off posting and just reading, but I’m taking a 10 minute hiatus before I go back into hibernation.
        Stats are like anything else. You can make them what you want. Cubs starting lineup:

        Rizzo 26
        Russell 21
        Schwarber 22
        Soler 23
        Castro 25
        Bryant 23
        Fowler 29
        Montero 32 and Schwarber will move in there nicely next year

        Average age of the key position players that got the Cubs there 25
        That is a young and athletic starting line-up. The fill in like Rodney, Denorfia etc skew the numbers upwards.

        I understand BigCats point.

        You guys don’t have to be insulting to individuals with differing view points. I do disagree with the old and rudderless position. We have plenty of young key players that bode well for the Nationals as well.

      • bowdenball - Oct 15, 2015 at 2:47 PM

        nats106, the Cubs are an extreme example. I bet if we projected the Nats’ starting lineup for next season w Taylor in CF and Turner at SS they’d come in close to those numbers. Furthermore the Nats were ranked near the top of most farm system rankings this season. Unless you’re comparing them to the Cubs, the Nats don’t have a dearth of young talent. Anyone who follows the team closely knows it.

  7. bigcat492 - Oct 15, 2015 at 11:33 AM

    I to would like to see more of Denn Decker. I think he could put up some good numbers if given the chance. BUt….sigh…..we got you know who in left. He’s getting to be the Nats RG3.

    • Dave - Oct 15, 2015 at 11:50 AM

      How anyone can possibly compare Jayson Werth with RGIII is beyond me.

    • Susanfaulkner - Oct 15, 2015 at 12:45 PM

      I’m going to blow a gasket! RG3 to Werth what? Oh my I’ve heard things about RG3 that is nothing like Werth on any level. If RG3 was like Werth maybe the Redskins would be a better team. Werth got the injury bug it will be different next year.

    • natsfan1a - Oct 15, 2015 at 1:04 PM

      What’s RG3, some kind of robot? Just kidding. I know, it’s pointy ball.

  8. veejh - Oct 15, 2015 at 12:30 PM

    RZim is a wild card, no doubt. If he could just stay healthy for a season….

    I agree with Chaz, there’s no move to be made. We have to roll the dice and hope he can stay relatively healthy next year.

  9. natsfan1a - Oct 15, 2015 at 1:14 PM

    Off topic (eh, I’m no armchair GM), but this is an amazing piece about an epic inning:

    http://www.thestar.com/sports/bluejays/2015/10/14/epic-blue-jaysrangers-seventh-inning-will-be-talked-about-for-years-arthur.html

  10. joemktg - Oct 15, 2015 at 3:27 PM

    Nick Johnson redux.

  11. philipd763 - Oct 15, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    Better keep Cliff Robinson around! RZ’s Nick Johnson body probably won’t cooperate.

  12. langleyclub - Oct 15, 2015 at 4:56 PM

    Ryan Zimmerman’s injury issues distract the analysis that his offensive numbers are in steady decline from 2010.

    His OPS each year starting in 2010:

    2010 – .899
    2011 – .798
    2012 – .824
    2013 – .809
    2014 – .790
    2015 – .773

    There was 1 everyday (502 PAs) National League first baseman with a worse OPS than .773: The decaying carcass of Ryan Howard.

    Zimmerman is getting paid for the next 4 seasons; so, he is going to play until he gets hurt again, but first base is a premium offensive position (Goldshmidt, Votto, Rizzo), and Ryan Zimmerman has not hit like a premium offensive player in a while. Not even close. Like Werth, really hurts that he is non-productive right-handed bat stuck in the middle of a lineup with too many, at best, erratic right handed bats.

    Fair to expect, RZ will be slightly healthier in 2015. Really not sure why it’s reasonable expect that he will be a much different offensive player next year.

    • unkyd59 - Oct 15, 2015 at 7:31 PM

      Bah. HUMBUG!!!

    • therealjohnc - Oct 15, 2015 at 10:36 PM

      Context is important – offense across baseball has been steadily declining. OPS+ adjusts both for league averages within a season and for the ballpark a player plays in. Zimmerman’s OPS+ over the past several seasons:

      2006: 114
      2007: 107
      2008: 103
      2009: 133
      2010: 142 (I didn’t start with Zim’s career year like you did, likely to try to emphasize “decline”)
      2011: 118
      2012: 121
      2013: 120
      2014: 117
      2015: 105

      His career OPS+ is 119, and he’s been amazingly consistent. The fact that he blistered the ball again when he came back gives every reason to believe that the bat is still there. He just turned 31 less than three weeks ago; he won’t be at an age that screams “age related decline” for another couple of years.

      The question with Zimmerman is whether he can stay on the field. If he can stay on the field, he will hit.

  13. trfwans - Oct 15, 2015 at 6:39 PM

    Interesting. In her article on the Nats outfield today, Chelsea Janes says the Nationals are virtually certain to give a qualifying offer to Denard Span, and she doesn’t go apoplectic over Werth’s performance in left field. Yet there are no comments from Section 222 or that Ghost guy taking her to task for those opinions. I guess they don’t want to be seen as politically incorrect for taking on the little lady.

    • ArVAFan - Oct 15, 2015 at 8:11 PM

      Well, maybe they just don’t post over there–I doubt that political correctness EVER stopped a blogger. At least not anywhere I’ve seen. Or, heaven forfend, they might either agree with her, or decided that the argument wasn’t worth the pixels, since we’ll find out soon enough about the QO. If his medicals are good, we could do worse than another year of Denard in CF.

      Ghost mostly posts on the blog he started.

    • therealjohnc - Oct 15, 2015 at 10:38 PM

      I happen to agree with her. I think Span is a stone cold lock for a QO, and view Werth’s performance as something to be concerned about, not something to be apoplectic over.

  14. JamesFan - Oct 15, 2015 at 7:30 PM

    I see lots of former stars fading around the league and Ryan Zimmerman is one of them. Nats must face the reality that he is fragile and cannot stay on the field. Not sure Robinson is the answer.

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