Keeping Ryan Zimmerman

Any conversation about keepers is always contextual. That is, keeping a player is highly dependent upon their price relative to performance. Duh, right?

I’ll admit that I’m a Ryan Zimmerman owner and about July 1, I’d made up my mind that I was no longer planning on keeping him on my squad and started thinking about other options in the future at third base. And then, of course, Ryan Zimmerman did what he’s doing and that’s hitting the snot out of everything. And now I’m left with a bit of a dilemma.

From the beginning of the season to the middle of August, Zimmerman was hitting .269/.343/.431 with 13 home runs over 443 plate appearances. That’s not awful, but at the price most managers were carrying Zimmerman at, I’m pretty sure everyone was thinking the same thing about his future on their roster. From August 15th to date, however, the proverbial switch flipped. In that span he’s hit .312/.370/.624 with 10 home runs over 119 plate appearances. Yahtzee.

Suddenly, his .277/.349/.470 slash line looks surprisingly in line with his career rate of .286/.353/.478. Translation: Ryan Zimmerman is hitting exactly the way you should have expected him to hit. But I can’t be alone in always sensing this dark cloud over him. Yet, at his current price, and the fact that he’s just 28 years old still, it feels like I should hang on to him. Why do we struggle to love Ryan Zimmerman?

Perhaps it’s the injuries that have dogged him over the past several seasons. But it’s more likely his rather odd splits. Zimmerman, in his career, averages .270/.337/.453 in the first half (and then we all moan and groan) and hits .303/.370/.504 in the second half (and we all shriek with joy). Call it the Aramis Ramirez syndrome. But if this is what you can expect should you wait him out each year — that is, a .280 batting average, 20-25 home runs, and flirtations with 100 RBI — is he worth it?

In context with the other talent at third base, maybe. Currently, Zimmerman ranks seventh in wOBA at .357. He’s ahead of guys like Kyle Seager, Manny Machado, Pedro Alvarez, and Pablo Sandoval. Seventh isn’t thrilling, but it’ll do. In terms of traditional 5×5 leagues, he ranks:

Batting average: T-9th
Runs: 8th
HR: 5th
RBI: 8th
SB: T-4th

If Zimmerman were able to stay on the field and give you 700 plate appearances, he’d likely be in the top 5 third basemen in four of those categories by the end of the season. And yet he hasn’t really been healthy all year since 2009. So you have to expect he’ll miss some time. I feel like I’m lying on my shrink’s chaise and just talking this one out with you.

If you look at his batted ball profile and his plate discipline, you don’t get much in the way of answers either.

O-swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact%
2011 28.4% 71.9% 90.5%
2012 30.5% 67.8% 86.6%
2013 30.4% 67.2% 85.2%

So he’s not offering at significantly more balls out of the zone, but he is making less contact on balls outside the zone and generally making less contact overall. It’s not awful, but certainly not the trend you’d be looking for. His swinging strike rate is a career high 8.8% as well. On the hit trajectory side of things:

LD% GB% FB% IFFB
2011 15.7% 50.5% 33.8% 5.5%
2012 18.5% 48.1% 33.5% 9.6%
2013 21.7% 44% 34.3% 11.9%

You have to like that his line drive rate is up considerably, but the infield fly ball rate is a little head-scratch-inducing. Looking ahead at 2014, I’m not terrifically thrilled with the talent at third base.

We certainly had some players emerge this year and provide some talent where it seemed a dearth existed, but it’s not terribly deep. Drop Zimmerman and you risk having to run a Trevor Plouffe or David Freese out there, which could be a real drain in a number of categories. If you don’t have other obvious solutions at third base and you’re employing Zimmerman at something around $27 to $28 bucks or less, I’d probably say just go ahead and hang on to him. Anything more and you need to cross your fingers that he’s going to stay healthy, which isn’t impossible but it’s not very probable.

 




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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

4 Responses to “Keeping Ryan Zimmerman”

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  1. BMac says:

    I think first you trade him, then write your article. Oops! Too late . And then, pick him up cheap at the all-star break next season!

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  2. binqasim says:

    As a Nats fan, it is tough to admit that he has slipped few step in 3B ranking over the years (we used to consider him one of the best in either league), mainly due to injuries and his throws. I think he has finally improved some on defense also so I wonder whether this is the healthy RZ (that shoulder seems fixed now) that we have been waiting for. Can we expect similar performance going forward? Then again those ten HRs have mainly come in last 10-12 games so he may just be in a hot zone right now.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      If you play Roto, not head to head, you can probably expect him to be who he is going forward. He has the same numbers every year, it’s just a question of when and how he arrives at them.

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  3. rotowizard says:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been going over this in my head for weeks now! After arbitration he should be around $25 for next season. Seems worth it.

    Michael, what are your thoughts on Beltran at $20-$23? Worth hanging on to?

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