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Projecting Zimmerman

I took a drive down to D.C. to take in the Nationals-Phillies game last night with my family and, following two great fielding plays, was reminded just how much I like Ryan Zimmerman. Prior to this year I had spent seven years (age 15-21) as a freelance graphics coordinator for CN8 Sports, wherein my job consisted of supplying stats to the guy who generated the on-screen graphics amongst others. One of the perks was all of the minor league games requiring my services. One of these games, involving the AA Harrisburg Senators, always stuck out due to Zimmerman’s involvement.

The game took place in August 2005, only a couple of months after the Nationals drafted Ryan, and, in my best scouting impression, he just had that look about him. I’m not too sure what that means or tells us but he just seemed to have the body, raw skills, and makeup of a future major league star. He performed quite well that game and two weeks later found himself in the major leagues. I’ll never forget thinking how remarkable it was that he had gone from college kid to relatively successful major league player in the span of two and a half or so months.

In 20 September games back in 2005, Zimmerman produced a .397/.419/.569 line, built upon a laughably unsustainable .500 BABIP. The following year, his true rookie year, he finished behind Hanley Ramirez in Rookie of the Year voting but posted extremely impressive numbers. In 157 games of plus-defense at third base, Zimm hit .287/.351/.471, with 20 home runs and 47 doubles. Playing in RFK didn’t help his home run numbers but 47 doubles as a rookie? Come on, now…

His BABIP that season was a more earthbound .329 and given his young age, 21-22 years old, it was not too insane to think that this would merely serve as a stepping stone for much greener performance pastures. Last season, however, he didn’t pick up where he left off. While playing all 162 games he hit .266/.330/.458, with 24 home runs and 43 doubles. His grand total of homers and two-baggers remained the same, as did his walk and strikeout rates, but his lower .298 BABIP resulted in a drop of twenty points in his batting average and on-base percentage.

While those numbers might be good for others, I quite simply expected more from Zimmerman. Perhaps it was merely a sophomore slump, something he would shake off this year. I’m not so sure anymore. Though he has battled injuries this year, he entered last night’s game with a .259/.300/.414 slash line. He has seemingly traded in some line drives for grounders and currently has an even lower .284 BABIP. Plugging him into both of the in-season projection systems offers this:

Marcel: 16 2B, 7 HR, .285/.351/.472 over the remainder
Total: 28 2B, 15 HR, .271/.325/.442, and an OPS of .767

ZiPS: 10 2B, 6 HR, .283/.353/.500 over the remainder
Total: 22 2B, 14 HR, .268/.322/.446, and an OPS of .768

Should he stay true to his talent level, this season should not end too differently from last season; however, in my eyes, that is not necessarily a “good” thing considering that last season signified a drop in performance from his rookie season. Though a .768 OPS in an injury-shortened season and a .788 in his sophomore season aren’t extremely different from his .822 in 2005, he is yet to take that next step towards super-stardom. Granted it may be tough to do while in a Nationals uniform but right now I’m disappointed with his production. From anyone who follows the Nationals—which, by the way the stadium looked last night constitutes a small number of fans—is there anything you have noticed with regards to Zimmerman, either this year or last? Is it injuries having an effect or has he not truly improved at all?