Ryan Zimmerman has been a bit of an offensive enigma in his young career, posting very solid numbers in his rookie campaign before taking steps backwards in seasons during which his age would call for improvements. After a .348 wOBA that almost earned him Rookie of the Year honors in 2006–some guy named Hanley Ramirez edged him out–Zimmerman has seen this same mark drop to .340 in 2007 and .336 last season. Though defensive ability has kept Zimmerman producing at a level well above the league average, his offensive decline had to be concerning for fans of the Nationals.
This season, however, Zimmerman got out of the gate quickly and is currently riding a 17-game hitting streak. Actually, he has gotten at least one hit in 18 of the 19 games played this season, only posting a donut in the hits column in the second game of the season. Entering last night’s game against the Phillies, Zimm’s +3.0 batting runs and +2.7 UZR had already bested his 2008 totals, combining for +0.9 wins. His wOBA stood at .379 with OBP and SLG marks closely resembling what most thought Zimmerman would reach by his third season.
In this 17-game hitting streak, Zimmerman is 23-73, with a .315/.383/.562 line. Entering the season, CHONE was more bullish on the third baseman than some of the other projection systems, calling for a .371 wOBA in 514 plate appearances. At .379 right now, CHONE basically sees Zimmerman capable of keeping up this level of performance in one way or another. The system projected his OBP/SLG to be around .364/.488 while the current numbers are .360/.526.
If his injuries have subsided, Zimmerman can continue to get on base at his current clip and his power does not regress too precipitously, there are very few reasons why he could not sustain a wOBA above .370. Coupled with solid defense in the +2 to +5 run range and we are talking about a +5 or more win player this season. Zimmerman, as Matthew recently noted, is definitely worth the money in his new extension and despite the small sample size comprising his performance this month, it is very exciting to see Zimmerman show signs of improving with the stick.
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