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Appreciating Ryan Zimmerman

The long slog of a losing baseball season can make it easy to take a great player for granted. This is especially the case when that great player, like Ryan Zimmerman, so rarely seems impressed with himself. Last night, he tore a bank of lights off the scoreboard, which was about 420 feet from home plate, and turned Sun Life Stadium into Sun Life Stadiu. The longest he's hit?

"I have no clue," Zimmerman said, shrugging. "Maybe. No, I don't know."

No big deal. The home run came after a play that few third baseman will make, and even fewer, if any, will make look as easy as Zimmerman did. He backhanded a smashed groundball by Cameron Maybin and, in one whippet-quick and smooth motion, sidearmed a laser throw to Adam Kennedy at second base, in the perfect spot for Kennedy to turn the double play on the speedy Maybin. "Pretty special," starting pitcher Jason Marquis said.

Zimmerman finished the night with that gem and going 2 for 4 with a walk, a home run, three runs and three RBIs. So last night makes for a good time, if there's even a need, to offer a reminder of what a tremendous season Zimmerman is having.

The numbers suffice to tell the story. In the National League, Zimmerman ranks third in Wins Above Replacement (5.2*), tied for 10th in batting average (.301), 10th in on-base percentage (.387), fifth in slugging (.528), fourth in OPS (.914), ninth in home runs (25), fourth in OPS+ (144), eighth in at-bats per home run (18.) and first in UZR/150 (23.3)

*This is the Baseball-Reference version. In FanGraphs' version of WAR, which places a heavier emphasis on defense, Zimmerman ranks first in the NL second in all of baseball behind Josh Hamilton at 6.3. In the past two seasons, Zimmerman's WAR on FanGraphs is 12.9, which trails only Albert Pujols.

As great as Zimmerman's 2009 season was, this season might be even better. Zimmerman, without a speck of a hyperbole, might be the best player in baseball in baseball 25 or younger. (He turns 26 at the end of September.) It's no fun for fans to watch their team lose games at the rate the Nationals are losing them. But because Zimmerman plays for the Nationals, you get to watch one of the very, very best players on the planet every night.

By Adam Kilgore  |  August 31, 2010; 12:22 PM ET
Categories:  Ryan Zimmerman  
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Comments

We are in danger of taking him for granted. Thanks for reminding us of his truly impressive season. And thanks, Zim, for all you do!

Posted by: NatsFly | August 31, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Its a shame he has been on a losing team these years, but he is still young and the worm is turning. I think in the next 5 years he might visit the post season 3 times....hopefully. Make it happen Rizz.

Posted by: cokedispatch | August 31, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

You said exactly what we say all the time - we get to see one of the best players every night. And not only a great player, but one who proves that stars don't have to be jerks.

My hope is that the Nats will lock him down before his contract is up, give him a pile of money (and exclusive jersey-handing-out rights for new signees) and make sure that we NEVER EVER see Zim on another ball team.

Posted by: katekirk | August 31, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Good article. He is heart and soul of this team. My hope is that he stays here for years to come and that we win a few championships with him

Posted by: cr8oncsu | August 31, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Zim is truly a special player. He deserves the best. He wants Dunn to stay. The Lerners need to give him what he wants!

Posted by: NoVaSnow | August 31, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Sitting where we do, we do our best to cheer loudly for Ryan at every opportunity. I know he can't hear us directly, but we love him!

Now at the Marlins game last night, he probably could have heard us and carried a conversation between innings! ;-)

Mr. Lerner - make sure the Franchise is happy - sign Dunn!!!

Posted by: Section416akatheAlps | August 31, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

In appreciation of Ryan Zimmerman, I'm going for a smoothie.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 31, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

yep

Posted by: longterm | August 31, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

The one that he hit off of David Wells in 2007 at RFK was longer. Travelled 452 feet (with a standard distance of 456) according to hittrackeronline.com

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/player/mp_tpl_3_1.jsp?w=2007/open/tp/archive06/060307_sdnwas_zimmerman_hr_tp_350.wmv&w_id=575722&pid=mlb_tp&fid=mlb_tp400&v=2&gid=2007/06/03/sdnmlb-wasmlb-1&login=N&authorization=N&mType=w&urlstr=&mUrl=&type=v_free&_mp=1

Posted by: Bauschz | August 31, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Were are losing his best years of productivity because the front office who doesn't seem to care. They talk a good game to make us drink the Kool-aide and pay for a $8.00 hotdog. But, in the end we get AAAA- players, or washups (Dunn is the exception)to help him.

Posted by: hansenjo | August 31, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I remember seeing his first game at RFK; I told my friends then: "cooperstown."

They laughed.

------

"In appreciation of Ryan Zimmerman, I'm going for a smoothie."

So tasty, even a caveman could like it.

Posted by: Section406 | August 31, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Amen to everything Zimm. They owe it to him and the fans to sign Adam Dunn.

Posted by: ridgely1 | August 31, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, "one of the very, very best baseball players on the planet" made the All-Star game this season, which supposedly rewards the top players in each league. What? He didn't? Really?

This is one of the reasons the All-Star game has become such a joke. How you can have an All-Star game this year without Ryan Zimmerman is ridiculous. 3 other 3rd baseman went ahead of him? WTF?

For those that say it doesn't matter, that he probably enjoyed the extra rest, at the end of his career, will the number of All-Star teams he made be part of the HoF discussion? I'm betting so. The more teams he makes, the better his chances of becoming the first Nationals HoF player!

We love you, Ryan Zimmerman!

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | August 31, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

It's too bad the guy's talent is being wasted with the LernerStanks owning the team.

Posted by: Section505203 | August 31, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Zimmbo!!! The scary thing is he's getting better.

Posted by: shanks1 | August 31, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Here, here... Zimm deserves a lot of credit for being a great player and working/playing hit butt off even when the team surrounding him is less then stellar... a true all star and fun to watch on both offense and defense... and, agreed, he is still getting better, as hard as that may be to believe...

Posted by: Ghost7 | August 31, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

After his September debut in 2005 asked my wife for a game style Zimmerman jersey for Christmas knowing this guy was a sure thing. You could just see the way he hit the ball that fall he was something special. Everything was scorching line drive. He didn't hit any home runs that fall, but you saw the raw hitting talent was there. And the defense was, well, ridiculous. I was at the game on Saturday and he made a very difficult over the shoulder grab in foul territory look . . . so. . . easy. A very special player indeed.

Posted by: PSL9903 | August 31, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

The glove work is super, indeed, but to me, he goes straight back on popups better than any third baseman I've ever seen.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 31, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

It was a pleasure to read this article. Thanks so much for taking the time to reflect on a player that means so much to this team.

Posted by: Natsgal | August 31, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I have NEVER taken Zimm for granted. Watching him go to his left for a grounder, spin 300 degrees, and whip a perfect throw to first is a joy to behold. At the Cards game Saturday night with my wife, he handled a grounder like that, and as the ball came to him, I poked my wife and said, "Watch this!"

If he were playing in New York, he'd win the third-base voting for the all-star game every year.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 31, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

As an old Orioles fan who's now converted to Natsdom, let me say this. Ryan Zimmerman is well on his way to combining the power and clutch hitting of Eddie Murray with the fielding of Brooks Robinson and the no-nonsense, humble attitude of Cal Ripken.

He could be that good.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 31, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The combination of Zim's offensive and defensive skills as well as his flair for the dramatic make him a special player. It always amazes me how much power he can generate especially to the opposite field.
I much prefer having him hit 4th with Dunn 5th, he can do much more damage than an all or nothing hitter like Dunn.

Posted by: Natmeister | August 31, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

balt (and others), a serious question: must we choose?

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | August 31, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

A rare game that he doesn't make a special play. I'll go see him in Cooperstown if he keeps this up and I live that long. I just hope he goes in in a Nats cap, cause he's not going to blow his whole career on a last place team.

Posted by: markfromark | August 31, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

My friends and I have long said that we'll be in the audience in Cooperstown when Zim is inducted. Hopefully he'll be playing for the Nats for so long that my buddies and I will be using walkers that day! Thanks for the article, Adam.

Posted by: Baldino | August 31, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Zimm's the ONLY infielder whom I don't automatically murmur "Field it well, field it well" every time an opposing batter hits a ground ball toward him.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | August 31, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Ya know, there is some 'glass half full' about this "losing season".

34-31 so far at home this year. With 16 more home games, if they go 8-8 they finish with 42 wins, their most ever at home.

33-48 in 2009
34-46 in 2008
40-41 in 2007
41-40 in 2006
41-40 in 2005

But what's in the food during the road trips?

Posted by: dand187 | August 31, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Apparently he's not special enough to have his name spelled correctly in the third paragraph of last night's gamer, however.

Posted by: Scott_in_Shaw | August 31, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm repeating myself, but not only is Zimmerman one of the best players in baseball, he has one of the best contracts (I think Fangraphs said it was 4th or 5th best) in terms of value. This sort of bargain doesn't come along very often.

If the team recognizes the value they're getting for Zim, they are almost obligated to do everything possible to compete next season and in 2012. They're never going to get a better bargain on one of the 5 best players in baseball. Now that Strasburg is out, at least for 2011, there's every reason to make a big offer to Cliff Lee.

Posted by: jcj5y | August 31, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Watch that glove and the plays he makes.

Posted by: mitlen | August 31, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

In my mind, the only difference between Brooks & Ryan defensively at 3B is when charging a ball.
Brooks made the throw across his body to first like few others, seeming to always have a sense of both the bag & the 1st baseman. Ryan is close to that, but 'double-clutches' 3-4 plays a year for errors.

I will agree with sec3(sofa) that he is one of the best at going back on popups & foul balls I've seen in ages.

Posted by: BinM | August 31, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

How long before we see ZIMMERMAN on the Circle of Honor behind home plate? With SS out of the picture for a while, looks like RZ is back to being the Face of the Franchise. And what a cute face it is!

Go Zim! Go Nats!

Posted by: luv2bikva | August 31, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the first unanimous group of postings in NJ history.

And no one deserves it more. I was sitting home alone last nite and said "WOW!" when that ball crashed off the scoreboard.

He's terrific.

Posted by: Meridian1 | August 31, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iMhySXR0hY&feature=player_embedded

everyone seen this?

Posted by: alex35332 | August 31, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Save it.

Posted by: tailwagger | August 31, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes; He is very,very,good not great yet, but soon he'll be that too,i wish he would stand just a little closer to the plate then he would be devastating that being said he is fun to watch, man that homer he hit last night was so hard hit it was scary, it is shamefull that the Lerners don't get him some help and by the way he eats grounders in his spare time.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 31, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

thanks alex (but what a great example this sets for that young fan in the front row!)

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 31, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Pete Franchise!

Zimmerman is my favorite player on the NATS and has been from day 1. I got him to sign Web Gem Champ when he appeared at a memoribilia show last year.

His unassuming humility is an asset, especially when he makes radio commercials! He's so relaxed and non-chalant about everything!

Gotta love Zim!

Now with the advent of another Zimmermann on the team, we have to think of another nickname to scream out at the ballpark. IT can't be the Z-man, it's already taken!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | August 31, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-Remember.....good ole Frank Robbie-who played with Brooks-was positively effusive about Ryan. Thought he could be as good as ANYONE in the long history of the game. And yup to baltova, bin and dargreg (shocking, I know, coming from me-I'm in their fan club, too).
Baltova, I too an old O's fan (to go with the Cards).....BinM, regarding Brooksie and the way Ryan plays and dargreg-the Slows not putting a semblance of real talent around Ryan til this year. Sigh. Guess we know what being a fan of Billie Williams or Ernie Banks was like-not to single out the Cubs. Plenty of examples in the game, so...
Hey-Gang-what other great players can you think of who spent their careers playing for mediocre teams? I'll be putting this query in the following posts, in case we've moved on....
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | August 31, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Zim is a great player and a class act. He is the Darrel Green and Art Monk of the Nats. Let's hope the other Zimm gets on track tonight!

Posted by: tommy11599 | August 31, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Don't complain about his not being in the All-Star game.

There's a legitimate criticism to the way he started the season. This team needed him to show the way defensively, and he started off (like last year) throwing those loopy side-armed balls all over the field. By the All-Star game, he wasn't hitting and had scads of errors.

I think he's clearly the best 3B in (at least) the NL, but there was no proving it at this year's All-Star break.

Posted by: bflorhodes | August 31, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Love the Z-Man..., always get that bad feeling that he will hit the bricks when the time comes, but maybe he'll take the LernerStanK NatsTown discount. We shall see!

Gosh it will be a sad day when he vacates his perch near the 3rd base bag in NatsTown. Got to give him credit for putting up with 6 years of bad baseball, lets just hope the Yankees aren't looking for a replacement for A-Rod in 2013/14

Posted by: TippyCanoe | August 31, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Zendo; always appreciate the shout out and your post are always on point here's hoping the other Zimm takes another step on the way back and gives "The Kid" a reason to relax and keep hope alive.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 31, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

@DougMcIntyre...absolutely right. It started decades ago, when the good folks in Cincy overvoted for Reds (an admittedly good team).

When Zim cam up, after a couple of games, I turned to my brother and said: We've got Mike Schmidt playing third. Said it then, still believe it. Barring something very unusual, such as an injury (heaven forbid), he'll be voted into Cooperstown about 2030.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | August 31, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

We have zendo and CALSGR8 chipping in, so I'll ask again: do people think we Orioles fans have to choose between the two teams?

Am I a traitor for liking them both?

(Sorry, not a Zimm encomium, I know, but it is largely due to my appreciation of him, among others, that I have affection for the Nats. So it's kinda topical.)

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | August 31, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

"Am I a traitor for liking them both?"

No, you can like them both - as long as you like one of them MORE. Don't be one of those doofuses showing up at games wearing a T-shirt made out of half a Nats shirt and half an O's shirt sewn together. And don't be one of those jerks yelling O during the National Anthem at Nationals Park - especially when the Orioles aren't playing there.

Posted by: nunof1 | August 31, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

steve, this may be a naive question, but traitor to what? who's stopping you? srsly.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 31, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

No no, definitely believe there are rules of fandom, just trying to sort out this pretty new one.

The Nats cap is on my head at games here in DC (the Os about 98% of the rest of the time). And the O gets mouthed silently.

Every. Single. Time. I hear the National Anthem.

Just out of curiosity, nun, how long have you lived in DC?

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | August 31, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

and Sec3, totally in good fun, but I do think it's an interesting question for kids of "my generation," gappers between the Sens leaving and the Nats arriving.

What anyone thinks won't change how I act or think, but it's a fun source of fake existential angst.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | August 31, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-Steve...ABSOLUTELY not!!!! At least IMHO...I still root for 'em. Your handle is relatively new (and appreciated-definitely a Gangster!)but I've posted about how as a kid (native of DC) I pulled fer the O's AND the Colts....on account of our squads stinking, Johnny U being Lithuanian (my background)and the Colts (they were my number 1 team as a kid)being great...so I also pulled fer the O's. Came up here in.....a long time ago...from New Orleans (my 2nd hometown) saw Eddie Murray win BOTH games of a doubleheader with h.r.'s versus the Tigers.Might have been just a base hit in the 2nd (another of my all-time favorites, Eddie was run outta B'more; again, IMHO). And that was BEFORE Peter the Grate owned 'em. But- I'm like nunoff (another hall of fame gangster)to an extent....just consumed by my very own hometown 9!
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | August 31, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

@stevie:
Weighing in, if I may. You like both the local franchises, but it sounds like your an Orioles fan at heart; That's ok, but if you come to the Navy Yards, please continue to refrain from the "O" during the National Anthem - That's a Balmer thing, and is best left there, imo.

Posted by: BinM | August 31, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

stevie, no need to choose, except in terms of focus. I simply don't have time to follow two teams equally and I've chosen the Nats to get my major focus. Then, there's the sticky problem of those interleague games where I root for the Nats, which even surprises me a little bit.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 31, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Best play I have seen in my life by anybody was in a game during his first full year against Atlanta that had a rain delay. We gave up, drove home, turned on the tv to hear the National Anthem, drove back, and I walked into the inner circle in the upper deck at RFK on my way to my seat as a Braves batter hit a pop up down the left field line that I thought was going to fall in and score a couple of runs. Running straight away from the outfield, Zimm dove flat out, catching the ball with his body parallel to the ground. Never seen anything close to it, and was so lucky to walk back in the stadium just as it happened. I was a believer from that moment.

Posted by: markfromark | August 31, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Nice to read nice stuff about a Nats player like Zim. Can you send him to Pittsburgh for Milledge and Hanrahan?

I was impressed by the stat that he is tied for 5 consecutive seasons with a Walk-Off HR which is probably the most exciting thing in baseball.

By looking at the team merchandise, I don't think they push Zim product like the team pushes Strasburg. Just my observaton.

Posted by: PENSguy17 | August 31, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Nice to read nice stuff about a Nats player like Zim. Can you send him to Pittsburgh for Milledge and Hanrahan?

I was impressed by the stat that he is tied for 5 consecutive seasons with a Walk-Off HR which is probably the most exciting thing in baseball.

By looking at the team merchandise, I don't think they push Zim product like the team pushes Strasburg. Just my observaton.

Posted by: PENSguy17 | August 31, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore, Washington, wherever - baseball fans can enjoy watching Zimmerman play. Even though I never rooted for the O's, I liked watching Cal and Eddie Murray play the game. It's nice to have the Z-Man here in DC to bring others to the game. Let's build a team around him!

Posted by: JCCfromDC | August 31, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm repeating myself, but not only is Zimmerman one of the best players in baseball, he has one of the best contracts (I think Fangraphs said it was 4th or 5th best) in terms of value. This sort of bargain doesn't come along very often.

If the team recognizes the value they're getting for Zim, they are almost obligated to do everything possible to compete next season and in 2012. They're never going to get a better bargain on one of the 5 best players in baseball. Now that Strasburg is out, at least for 2011, there's every reason to make a big offer to Cliff Lee.

Posted by: jcj5y | August 31, 2010 2:51 PM |

Yes, a great contract. Do you recall all the posters who said signing Zim was too big a risk for the owners because Zim had not established himself sufficiently?

Anyway, Zim's hitting started to take off when Dunn began hitting behind him. Coincidence? Maybe. But let's not find out. Zim likes Dunn hitting behind him, and as you point out, we need to take advantage of Zim's talents now, not in some future hereafter. Let's not have Zim get discouraged over the Nats' team building efforts so that he dreams of playing elsewhere and then acts on it.

Hard to imagine the Nats springing for Lee, though that would be great. They can at least spring for Dunn, and add a few other good pieces too.

Posted by: EdDC | August 31, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the input, all.

(And while I play an insecure 12-yr old, born-and-raised-in-DC-and-trying-so-hard-to-emulate-Cal-but-struggling-to-make-the-throw-from-deep-short, on the internet, that's not who I am in real life.

At least not often. Having two teams to root for is - for the most part - a nice problem to have.)

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | August 31, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

@baltova:
It's the Dark Lord's (Angelos) power that you fight - 'baltova, I AM your father; Give into the dark side of the force'. BTW, anybody else think Angelos resembles Ian McDiarmid as Lord Palpatine?

Let go of the dark side baltova, and follow the light of the force, before he has both your hands cut off & takes all your money.

Posted by: BinM | August 31, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and I gotta add, @zendo: being from DC and rooting for the Colts is just crazy.

You're sick.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | August 31, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Zim's comfort level with Adam Dunn watching his back is reason enough to re-sign Dunn as well as some long HRs!

Posted by: dmacman88 | August 31, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

One thing that makes you notice how good Zimmerman is - ever see a Nats batter hit a hard grounder down the third-base line or into the gap, and expect it to be a an out? And then when it gets by, you realize, "oh, wait, that's only an our when Zimmerman's out there."

That's when you know a player's special - when he changes the way you watch the game. Sometimes people forget that what he does isn't normal.

Posted by: 202character | September 1, 2010 2:19 AM | Report abuse

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