Get To Know a Nat: Ryan Zimmerman

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Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them!  Not sure where to start with player and season previews?  Not ready to jump into heavy metrics?  Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013?  Then you’ve come to the right place!

Name: Ryan Wallace Zimmerman
Nickname(s): Zim, The Z-man, Mr. walk-off, Face of the Franchise
DOB: September 28, 1984 (Age 28)
Twitter?: Nope, but his wife is on Twitter @HeatherZiMS
From:  Born in Washington, North Carolina but grew up in Norfolk, VA.
Position: Third Base Batting Order: Currently 3rd.
Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted and Debuted with Nationals in 2005.

Before the Strasburgs and Harpers; Before “Take on Me” and the Beard; Before Mike Rizzo, Ted Lerner and Nationals Park-there was Ryan Zimmerman.  Even though Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina have, technically, been with the franchise longer ( drafted by Montreal but in the minors until fairly recently), Zimmerman is considered by many to be the original Nat.  He is probably one of the few Nationals that really gets what those of us who’ve been in the stands since 2005 have gone through with this team: Empty Parks, Parks overrun by opposing fans, 100+ loss seasons, players not wanting to play here, no owner. We sat through it all, and Ryan Zimmerman played through it all.  As much as anyone, Zim has been waiting for a team this good and the opportunity it offers.

The face of the franchise had a really good year last year despite what amounted to a three month slump. It turned out that a shot of cortisone was all that was needed, which allowed Zim to play through some shoulder problems and look like the Zim of old.  After the season Zim had shoulder surgery to correct the injury that required four cortisone shots throughout the year. He is currently working his way back to playing form in Spring Training.

What’s Expected:  Ryan Zimmerman before his third cortisone shot was hitting .218 and ground into 11 of his total 20 double plays.  After he finally got the shot that worked, he tore through the rest of the season hitting .324 the rest of the way, 22 of his 25 Home Runs, and driving in 73 of his 95 RBIs.   When he’s healthy, that’s what’s expected of him-a caliber of play that should put him in the discussion for best 3rd Basemen in the NL and getting MVP votes. Zim, however, is oddly injury prone- never related injuries, each an individual situation.  He played just 106 games in 2008 and 101 in 2011, and the team suffers when he doesn’t play well.  Let’s look at his batting stats Baseball Reference:

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When healthy, he’s a remarkably consistent player.  He usually bats in that .280-.300 range, 25-30ish Home Runs and can drive in runs.

Zim is going to have to be healthy for this team to succeed.  He’s a vocal leader on a club intent on handling it’s business. His presence is missed by the team when he’s not there.  There is a good chance that he will be moved down to the fourth spot this year, full clean up mode, given how the Lefty, Righty, Lefty, Righty order of batting might break down.  There isn’t much more pressuring batting fourth over third, I would think, but he will be following Adam LaRoche’s tough act from last year.

Defensively, few are better at stopping balls from getting past third, and I don’t think anyone charges down the line to get a softly hit ball like he does.  He will need to continue that play in 2013 if the team intends to compete for a world title.

If It All Goes Right: Zim plays in 150+ games and posts a better than .300 average, mashes 30+ Home runs and (because he has good base runners like Span, Werth and Harper ahead of him in the line up) goes well over 100 RBIs for the year.  After a few weeks of the season, no one is asking how Zim’s shoulder is doing because he’s back to his old self holding down the hot corner.  He gets another Silver Slugger and Golden Glove award, and into the top 10 in NL MVP voting.  More importantly, FOX is doing post-season stories about Zim’s long wait to finally play in championship games.

If It All Goes Wrong:  Short of injury, the only thing that might put Zim off is the new spot in the batting order.  For some reason batting fourth might not sit well with him, but I don’t think that will happen.

Realistically, the only way I see it going downhill is injury.  As above, he’s remarkably consistent as a player when healthy.  But when he’s not healthy, it goes south-and fast.  In that case, the team is either dealing with a struggling Zimmerman, or someone like Chad Tracy or Steve Lombardozzi is playing at 3rd while Zim is on the DL.  In addition to the drop off in production both defensively and offensively that would represent, it throws the whole order out of whack- a ripple effect destroying the Nationals run productivity-and chances to repeat as NL East Champs.

Get to know more Nats!
Starting Rotation: Ross Detwiler
Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Denard Span
Catchers: Wilson Ramos
Bench: Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina
Bullpen: Ryan Mattheus
Callups: Part I

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