Nationals Baseball: Paging Ryan Zimmerman

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paging Ryan Zimmerman

It's pretty easy to find the flaws in the Nats lineup because they are mostly gaping holes. Ian Desmond can't hit. Sorry Desmond fans/relatives it's true. His last three months of splits are as follows

.218 /. 255 /.287
.217 /.255 /.228
.232 /.283 / .304

In the past two years if you state that an OPS+ of >110 is good and <90 is bad, he's had 1 good month and 5 bad ones. I will say "give him time" but really I mean "be 100% sure he can't hit because when you bring someone else in you don't want to jerk him around to bring Desmond back".

Jayson Werth is struggling mightily. After a couple months of being sneakily useful he crashed in June and July : .170 / .301 / .281. He still walks a fair amount. He easily leads the team with 50 which is 8th in the NL. (In fact outside of Danny Espinosa he's the ONLY guy on the team that walks. As much as the fans may want a slappy leadoff hitter - how about someone else on the team that can take a pitch?) He still hits for power. He's second on the team in doubles, somehow. He just doesn't hit enough for some reason. Bad luck is a part of it, but not all.

CF is at best passable (Bernadina) and at worst laughable (Ankiel)

But there maybe another issue in the lineup. The guy manning third base, the face of the franchise (well to all but Past Needham and Eric Young). Ryan Zimmerman.

It probably isn't a problem. Ryan's been great for a couple years now and he was great for a couple weeks before getting injured. Those early stats carried Zimm for a while but his June was so hideous that Ryan had a line of .219 / .303 / .362 on July 2nd. Give him time we all said and that seemd to be all he needed. He went on a tear having a 2 week stretch of .350 / 447 / .575 offense. Just when you were ready to file that worry away, though, here comes an 0-9 with 3 Ks. Dammit.

Before we welcome Ryan back to being an offensive leader he has to do more than hit well for a couple weeks. Anyone can do that (seriously - anyone can - I just looked at Ankiel and was able to pick out a .394 / .444 / .576 period) His line in July is still not good (.233 / 343 / .383). Anyone can have a bad month but the Nats can ill afford for Ryan Zimmerman to have much more than that. Ryan needs to hit not just well, but like a star for this team to work. And I mean that not just in "so the lineup can work in 2011" way. For this whole thing to work. The push to the playoffs. The relevancy.

It's something to keep an eye on in these last two months. A bad performance doesn't necessarily spell doom for the team, but it will mean that it's one less thing that can be counted on for next season. This team doesn't have many guarantees in 2012. ZNN has won me over. I think we can pencil him in to be at least a #2/#3 type if not better. Lannan should be usable at least. But Espinosa and Ramos could regress. Morse could too. The multiple full year consistency isn't there yet. LaRoche and Strasburg will be coming back from injury. Livan, if back, is 92. This team doesn't need another question mark.


Anonymous said...

The only problem with looking at this as a problem, is that there is no solution. Zimm will hit in the middle of the order and will be manning third base for the next few years. Maybe you can try and pick up another run-producing type hitter, but i doubt they'd be able to do that. They pretty much have to bank on Zimm's body of work, and roll with that. There is very little reason to think that Zimm will not be that number 3 hitter that we've all known the last few years. A bad month or so is nothing to be concerned about. Yes, he has to hit well in order for the team to succeed. But he will. He has since he came into the league, and he will again. I'd do just what they're doing: plug Zimm into the 3-hole playing third base and forget about it. Just my opinion.

Harper said...

I still believe in Ryan and expect a decent August and/or September. This is a mid-season post. Not looking at problems but things that might be problems "if". It's a long season.

calindc said...

Ryan had to change his throwing motion after the injury, so maybe he had to tweak his swing a little bit as well. Just guessing, but he might also be holding back a little at the plate.

cass said...

Actually, there is an alternative to Zimmerman, who is only signed for two more years. The alternative has "gold glove defense", or so we are told, and was the best hitter in college a year ago. Oh, and he'd be free for six years.

Look, I want Zimmerman to spend his entire career in DC and win multiple MVPs and go to the hall of fame. He's been the core of this team for a long time and deserves to be here when the Nats win. But in terms of building the team, assuming they get him signed, the Nats do have a good alternative in Rendon.

calindc said...

Zimmerman puts butts in seats and sells many jerseys (not to mention, being the franchise player). Unless he becomes injury prone, he'll be a Nat for 4-5 more years.

Harper said...

cass - that's a bit premature don't you think? Betting on a guy injured in college yet to hit in AA? Then again what do I know. I still won't be sold on Bryce till he starts dominating AA.

cal - do you mean 4-5 years after 2013? I think the most likely years left numbers are 2 and 7+

Bryan said...

Unless you are arguing that Zimmerman's injury in some way affected his ability to hit, I think you are overplaying his struggles. You don't appear to be saying that, so I have to assume you are questioning his ability to hit at the big-league level. Rarely do guys who hit as well and as consistently as Zimmerman just drop off the face of the earth.

Glad to hear you are sold on ZNN. And the last two games haven't been bad for Werth. I think Espi can hit, and maybe hit better than he is currently, average wise at least. Desmond is a sunk cost this year, but I'd trade him if you can. He's a nothing. I need to see more of Ramos.

In summation:
Zimmerman - not a question mark
ZNN - not a question mark
Espi - most likely not a question mark
Ramos - leaning toward not a ?
Desmond - AAAA player.

Donald said...

Maybe this is for another posting, but where's the tipping point? Even the best teams have holes somewhere. You can't have all-stars at every position. If Zimm, Espi, Ramos, Werth and Bryce all produce in 2012 or 2013, along with Stras, ZNN, Lannan, Peacock, Gorzelanny, is that enough to carry them all the way?

I totally agree, btw, that we have to be able to count on Zimm. I'm just wondering if it matters if we have Morse vs. LaRoche at 1B and Desmond vs. Lombardozzi in the middle infield or not if the core produces as hoped.

cass said...

Oh, I'm not betting on Rendon, I'm just saying we have other options.

Harper said...

Bryan - I did mean that maybe post-injury Ryan < pre-injury Ryan. Sorry that that wasn't clear. You're right in that he's too young and has too much past success for a drop-off to below average to be anything but shocking.

I think you have to keep Espy and Ramos as question marks until well into next year if only because of Desmond. It would have been tempting to say "not great - but not a question mark" for him after last year and now look.

Donald - It's tough to say because it depends on what type of production and what's going on around the division. Most likely no. At least not in a easily take the division sort of way. That seems to me more of a WC team assuming the other 3 offensive spots are below average. It would be a very interesting WC team if Strasburg and ZNN were dominant.

calindc said...


Zimm's signed thru the 2013 season. Crossing my fingers and toes, the Nats should be competing and will probably offer him a 3-4 year extension. Or, of course, the they could tank the next two years and we will be talking about what we can get with a 29 year old 3b with 30/100 potential if he doesn't miss 40 games each year.

Anonymous said...

Um...did you just question the abilities of the best 3rd Baseman in the league? He's just readjusting after missing a lot of time. Next season when he hits .300+ with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI you will regret everything you just said.

Harper said...

cal - I think Zimm can get more than 4 years on the open market. If he is like... well like most everyone else in the world, he'll go out and get that if the Nats are offering less.

Anon - nope. not questioning now. Saying I'd be questioning about 2012 if he doesn't have a good finish to July and subpar August and Septembers. And even then I'd be optimistic for Zimm to have a good 2012. I just wouldn't bet the house on it.

Donald said...

So what are the keys to success? Obviously strong pitching rotation. Stras, ZNN, ???, Lannan, ??? has some holes, but you'd hope that Wang, Milone, Peacock, Gorzelanny, Detwiler should fill at least one of those if not both.

You need power, which we probably have enough of in Morse, Werth, Espy, Zimm, particularly if Bryce is there.

You need clutch relievers which we probably already have covered in Storen and Clippard if they stay.

You need speed, which we are probably also fine with in Espy, Desmond, Werth, Harper, Bernadina.

You need a catalyst, which is the lead-off guy they are truely missing.

What else?

Hoo said...

Not your finest hour. You're getting antsy over 75 Abs when he's coming off an injury. This is a bit cherry picking. The concern about Zim have gone from 0% to 1%(ok, higher if you count health).

He has 2 straight silver sluggers so let's not worry about a 75 AB dip. I'll agree if the dip gets to 200+ ABs.

Anonymous said...

As much as athletes like to put it out there that they are superbeings, in effect they are very fragile when it comes to injury recoveries. It's always tossed about that guys who have knee or elbow ligament surgeries need a full year before they are back to 100%. But I'd wager much of that time is fixing their brains. Zimm has changed his throwing motion, as if that is what strained his oblique. Nonsense. It's a mental game they are playing with him. He's gun shy about hurting his abs again. He stands 50 feet away from the plate because he worries if he turns to hit an inside pitch, he'll be under the knife again. He needs to rip a 450 foot home run to left and feel fantastic about rounding the bases again and he'll start hitting again.

As for Werth, I'll bet dollars to donuts he needs contacts or Lasik. He's 32 and every man whose gone into their 30s will tell you your vision/prescription changes in early to mid-30s.

JDBrew said...

Harper, you just took a ton of flak for simply stating that Zimm is playing poorly, which is true. I am not gonna rip you for it. He's not hitting. Yes, he will hit at some point. And I agree, with what they have, Zimm needs to hit like a star in order for this team to win. He can, and I'd bet that he will. But I'm with you in saying that it would be disconcerting if he finishes the year poorly. Hopefully he'll turn it around sooner rather than later so that we can just chalk this up to fan paranoia. I'm not sold on very much with this team. I like our pitching, and most of our infield. I'm even fine with Werth and his contract. I'm a little concerned about Morse moving back to left. Maybe he is the kind of player that needs constant fielding reps to hit well. Kinda keep his adrenaline up or something. Hopefully he'll be fine. Bourne would be real sweet, we really need a leadoff hitter, and a center fielder. I'm even okay with Desi, assuming we get a leadoff hitter in center field. I'm not okay with a bad Zimmerman. That's unacceptable.

Harper said...

Donald - There really is only one thing the Nats will lack and that's the ability to get on base. They generally have low average, low walk guys right now.

But really it's not a question of having it as of having enough of it. It's about being better than the other teams making the playoffs. Really as you note the pieces are there but we'll have to see how they develop and what the dvision looks like before we can say if it's enough or not.

Hoo - you mean this blog post wasn't better than when I stormed the beach at Normandy? It's just something I thought when Zimm went 0-9 in the last two games when I felt he was "back". Up until then I figured it would solve itself and then it did solve itself. Now I'm keeping an eye on it, where I wasn't even bothering before. Nothing more.

Anon - I can see that. And an offseason would help because it's easier to put it all behind you. As for Werth - hell after what it did for Guzman I say everyone gets lazer beams shot in their eyes.

JDB - I'm with you on the not being sold. This team kind of projects like John Lannan. Good enough as is but walking a thin margin between playoffs and also-rans. Not much depth... yet (starting pitching could be there in a year depending on Cole and Solis, Rendon could add alot too) But to be fair, this is they way most teams operate.

kick me in the GO NATS said...

Man you give a lot of credit to pretty small sample sizes.

Desmond will hit far better than he is now because nearly everyone who plays at 25 all year then plays all year at age 26 gets much better as long as they do not get hurt. Desmond is to young to give up on! period! Ozzie Smith, relative to his league, was 22.7% worse offensively in his second full year than Desmond is relative to the NL in his second full year (use wRC at fangraphs). The Padres then went and traded Smith to the Cardinals and he went on to the Hall of fame. I am not saying Desmond = Ozzie Smith just that Desmond is far to young and talented to ditch!

Now if Desmond was putting this numbers up at Morse's age (29) then I would drop him in a second. But he is 4 peek years younger. A big difference in baseball years!

Zim is clearly playing hurt. His defense and offense are both way off his norms.

Bernadina is not passable at anything, but below average at everything, and at his age should be a far better defender. However, he is to young to fire. Nonetheless, he is probably a 4th OF in the long run.

Harper said...

I tend to agree with you on Zim. Hopefully he'll turn it on but even if he doesn't I'll go into next year thinking he'll be good. Worrying that he won't be, true, but thinking he'll be good. As for Bernie, I consider "just below average" passable. You want better but it's not going to kill you.

As for Desmond, I'd wager that if we looked at all SSs that took a big step back in their 2nd full year around age 25 we'd see alot more Russ Adamseses then Ozzie Smithesess.