Ryan Zimmerman: 2014 Year in Review

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For the Washington Nationals, the 2014 season was full of promise, success and excitement, despite the team’s early postseason exit. For Ryan Zimmerman, however, 2014 was probably a year to forget.

Zimmerman missed substantial time on the disabled list twice in 2014 and never really managed to get out of spring training-mode. The former first-round draft pick has been injury-prone throughout his career, but it was never quite as bad as it was this season.

Perhaps the worst part of Zimmerman’s injury-plagued 2014 campaign is how quickly it went down the gutter, as it all started just a few days into the season.

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On April 12 against Atlanta, Zimmerman was picked off at second base by Braves pitcher Alex Wood. But the consequences of the play were far more severe than just getting thrown out, as Zimmerman jammed his right hand sliding back into the bag and fractured his thumb. For the Nationals, they were suddenly without their best hitter. And for Zimmerman, he suddenly found himself back on a list he knows all too well.

Zimmerman missed six weeks after the injury and his absence was greatly felt in the lineup, as the team struggled to a record of 27-28 through June 1 and dropped to third place in the NL East. When Zimmerman made his return on June 3, it finally looked like he would get the chance to put up the numbers that the Nationals expect from their $100 million man. And for a while, he did.

Zimmerman returned to the lineup in typical Zimmerman fashion, going 2-4 with two doubles and an RBI June 3 against the Phillies. After his first game, however, it was clear that Zimmerman would need time to get back to being the great hitter we’ve seen for the last 10 years.

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He played his first full month of the season in June and hit just .212 with one home run and 13 RBIs. In July, however, Zimmerman became one of the hottest hitters on the planet.

Zimmerman tore through the first 22 days of July, posting a .362/.569/.987 line while hitting six doubles, two home runs and driving in 16 runs. But just when it looked like Zimmerman was poised to lead the Nationals’ offense through the second half, injury struck again. And this time, Zimmerman missed nearly two months.

On July 22 in Colorado, Zimmerman suffered a Grade 3 strain in his right hamstring while running to first base. Zimmerman was safe at first but collapsed after reaching the bag. After a quick talk with manager Matt Williams and trainer Lee Kuntz, Zimmerman left the game.

Zimmerman would not return until the last week of September and was never really able to get things going for the playoffs. The 30-year-old made Williams’s NLDS roster and appeared in all four games from the bench, but he simply wasn’t healthy enough to start. Ultimately, the Nationals’ lack of offense led to their demise in the postseason. And in a winter of “what ifs”, we’re left to wonder what would have happened had Zimmerman been a threat in the middle of the lineup in the postseason.

But the 2014 season wasn’t all bad for Zimmerman. He only played in 61 games, but he showed bouts of greatness when he was on the field. The season also provided some clarity as to what position Zimmerman will play for the rest of his career.

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  • Due to an arthritic right shoulder, Zimmerman’s days at third base are likely over. The transition began in 2014 as the former gold glover played 30 games in left field, 23 at third base and five at first base. While he looked comfortable in left field, his future — at least with the Nationals — is as a first baseman.

    The 2014 season was the first year of the 6-year, $100 million contract extension that the Nationals and Zimmerman agreed to in 2012. Needless to say, it didn’t work out as well as either party hoped.

    But Zimmerman is still one of the team’s best hitters and an undeniably valuable presence in the lineup when he’s healthy. Zimmerman’s thumb and hamstring issues will be long behind once spring training starts and the Nationals should have him at full force throughout the 2015 season.

    The Nationals are expected to do big things next year and, given that a large part of the team’s core could leave via free agency following 2015, it could be Washington’s last chance for a while to bring home the Commissioner’s Trophy. And if the Nationals want to accomplish their lofty 2015 goals, they’ll need a healthy Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup to help lead the way.

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