Much has been made recently of Ryan Zimmerman‘s fielding struggles. Formerly a stellar fielder, Zimmerman won a Gold Glove in 2009 and was often regarded as one of the league’s top defensive third baseman. However, his performance has fallen off recently. He made 17 errors in 2011, and missed time with a shoulder injury in 2012 while still committing 19 errors in 145 games, third most in baseball.
After shoulder surgery this offseason, he worked with the team to reform his throwing motion, as they believed it contributed to some of his injuries, including an abdomen injury in 2011. Initially, his new motion seemed to be a success, with Zimmerman committing no errors during Spring Training or the first nine games of the season. But his confidence has deteriorated recently and he has committed four errors in the team’s last six games. Two of these have been key, as one led to two unearned runs in a 3-1 loss to Atlanta while another gave Miami an opportunity for four unearned runs in an 8-2 game.
His main problem has been with making the ordinary throws, ones on which he has time. He has retained his ability to make the throws that wow you: the barehand, sidearm throws on slow rolling grounders. If he’s healthy enough to make spectacular plays, can’t we assume he’s physically capable of average throws too?
If Zimmerman’s problem is mental, then there is nothing to be concerned about. GM Mike Rizzo admitted that Zimmerman is still “adjusting to his mechanics”. He acknowledges this, as demonstrated by the fact that he asked Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond if they could see any problems with his throwing mechanics. As a confident veteran who has led the Nats for as long as anyone can remember, Zimmerman should have absolutely no problem getting his mind right to make the throws he needs to. He has always delivered under pressure, and fixing his own problems will be no different.
Zimmerman is the face of the Nationals franchise, and has earned the confidence of every Nats fan through the course of his career. He suffered through two teams with baseball’s worst record, and was rewarded with a team that was baseball’s best. He has been with the Nats through thick and thin without so much as a peep, and deserves every ounce of respect fans have to give him. It is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that the All-Star third baseman should be replaced by Anthony Rendon, currently in AA, thanks to a few defensive struggles 15 games into the season. Obviously that is not a majority view, but Zimmerman deserves better than doubt from the fanbase.
In closing, there should be no concern about Zimmerman. He is a proven mentally tough star, and is healthy by all accounts, so there is no reason to believe he won’t right the ship.