30 Players in 30 Days: Ryan Zimmerman
This is the final 30 in 30 segment and it is only fitting that we conclude with the first player that comes to mind when people think of the Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman. He won’t say it himself but he is the face of the franchise. There is no way around it. He was the Nationals first draft pick in 2005 and made his Major League debut three months later, batting .397 (23-for-58) in 20 games. If there is one player that embodies the Washington Nationals, he is the person. He is also the person that has welcomed the past two No. 1 picks–Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper–to the Nationals ballclub, making him the unofficial jersey presenter at press conferences.
“It’s going in my next contract,” Zimmerman said.
The mild mannered, overly polite Zimmerman is slowly becoming the main voice in the clubhouse, a role he has grown into over the last few seasons. He leads with his actions but he is starting to feel comfortable with voicing his opinion when he feels it is necessary.
The 26-year-old–yes, it is hard to believe he is just 26–set career highs in batting average (.307) and on-base percentage (.388) en route to his second straight Silver Slugger award in 2010. He was beat out by Scott Rolen for his second Gold Glove but Zimmerman is a vacuum at third base, nonetheless. According to fangraphs.com, he has the best range in the Majors and saved 13.9 runs last season, third best among third basemen.
“Part of my goal and part of my progression is to become an average hitter as well as a power hitter,” Zimmerman said. “When you look at guys who hit .300 and have the ability to hit 30 home runs and drive in a 100 runs in a season, there are only a handful that are out there. If you can do that consistently every year, you become one of the elite players in the league. That’s my goal and pretty much everyone’s goal.”
Zimmerman is right. There are only a handful of players that can post a .300 average with 100 RBI and 30 home runs in a season, but Zimmerman is starting to be one of those rare offensive players. There have only been six players each of the past two seasons to post such numbers–Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are the only two players to do it in 2009 and 2010. Zim was five home runs and 15 RBI short this season and eight batting points last season but it is safe to pencil in those type of numbers for Zimmerman next season. You can also count on him to hit a few walk-off home runs in 2011. He has a history of getting it done in big time situations. From the time his Major League career began on September 1, 2005, he has hit seven game-ending home runs–more than anyone else since that date. Andre Ethier and David Ortiz hold second place with six.
On September 7, 2005, the Nationals were 3.5 games behind the Astros in the Wild Card race and Zim got the start at shortstop–his only start at short in the Majors. Zimmerman hasn’t been part of a playoff race since 2005 and he is ready to change that.