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Analyzing a slump: Zimmerman

Just for kicks, here are Ryan Zimmerman's at-bats during this road trip. (L = liner; P = popup; F = fly ball; K = strikeout swinging; K* = strikeout looking)

L8, P4, K*, P3, F9, K, 3-1, K*, K, 1b, F8, F9, K, 1b, bb, 1b, 2b, fc, K*, K, F8, 1b, 5-3, L8, F8, 3u, F8, F7

That's 5 for 26 (.192). Here's what a scout said about Zimmerman this weekend: "They're asking him to be a star, and he's not ready to be a star." Through 19 games, he is hitting .215 with a .244 on-base percentage and .342 slugging percentage. He has two extra-base hits in his last 54 at-bats.

That makes a lot of sense. There has been some talk on the Journal about moving Zimmerman down in the order and moving Nick Johnson (.255/.408/.491 (look at that separation b/w batting average and on-base percentage, showing how he can still be valuable even when he's not hitting)).

Acta's thinking in keeping Zimmerman where he is: Johnson, at this point, is the best protection they have for Zimmerman, who needs some protection. Johnson doesn't need protection because, as pointed out above, his eye never really goes away, and he's going to lay off pitches he should lay off and get on base even when he's not hitting.

The bottom line: This team needs Zimmerman to hit in order to score consistently, and it's not like it has a large group of players that are candidates to hit third.

But I'll go back to a point Acta made last week: Zimmerman is too often satisfied to swing at a strike, even if it's a pitcher's pitch on the low-and-outside edge of the zone. Zimmerman, at this point, sees himself driving those balls to right field and thinks it's a good at-bat. Acta's point is that the balls you truly drive go where players aren't - either over the walls or to the gaps. My scorebook has only two lineouts on this road trip for Zimmerman.

Some other interesting Zimmerman facts:

He has 86 plate appearances, and has had two strikes on him in 40 of those appearances.

He is 6 for 40 (.150) with two strikes on him.

He is 0 for 7 with a full count.

He has taken a ball one 27 times, or fewer than one in three plate appearances.

What does this mean? Pitchers are attacking him early in the count, and then - and this is my observation - getting him to chase after that. To this point, he's been too willing to chase.

I wrote in Saturday's paper, following Friday night's win, about a pitch Nick Johnson took at 2-2. If he doesn't take that pitch, the Nationals likely don't win that game.

The following day, Jim Bowden was in the clubhouse. Johnson was watching video of that night's starting pitcher, Burke Badenhop. Bowden came over, plopped down, and congratulated Johnson on taking that pitch, which resulted in a three-run double on the next pitch. "I told our younger guys to watch that at-bat," Bowden told Johnson.

He mentioned Lastings Milledge and Wily Mo Pena. He might have mentioned Zimmerman, too.

By Barry Svrluga  |  April 21, 2008; 12:00 PM ET
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