Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is finally coming out of his cold streak. Based on analytics, he should not have been cold in the first place.
Throughout his 14-year career, Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has established himself as one of the most professional players in the league. Due to his sparkling reputation, Dave Martinez did not question Zimmerman when he decided to partake in an unorthodox spring training.
In a move that has been highly criticized, Zimmerman only played in one major league spring training game. Instead, he played in minor league games. He claimed that it provided a more controlled environment and would help him stay healthy.
Then, Zimmerman got off to a less-than-ideal start to the regular season. Through his first 10 games, he was hitting .097.
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Everyone around baseball was quick to blame Zimmerman’s unorthodox spring. The beginning of the season is the most overly-scrutinized part of the year, which was the case for Zimmerman’s slow start. Players go through slumps all the time, but a slump to begin the year appears to be the end of the world.
There is no getting around the fact that Zimmerman’s stats were abysmal. A cleanup hitter on a World Series contender should not be hitting below .100.
However, Zimmerman’s peripherals were solid. He was having good at-bats, hitting the ball hard, and his low-100s BABIP was nowhere near sustainable. His stats were discouraging, but they did not properly represent his performance.
Now, Zimmerman is finally being rewarded for hitting the ball hard.
Zimmerman’s hard-hit rate is 38.4%, which is fourth-best in the National League, but he is still hitting less than .200. Hitting the ball hard usually warrants a reward, but he has been extremely unlucky.
To put things in perspective, Robinson Cano‘s hard-hit rate is 0.2 percent higher than Zimmerman’s, but his batting average is 151 points higher. Even Mitch Moreland, whose hard-hit rate is 1.2 percent lower than Zimmerman’s, has a batting average 171 points higher.
Fortunately, Zimmerman is finally being rewarded for hitting the ball hard. Over the last five games, he has slashed .368/.429/.895 with two homers, two doubles, and a triple.
Even with Zimmerman’s recent hot streak, his BABIP is incredibly low. At .192, he is significantly lower than the .300 league average. This is unsustainable and will only improve as the season progresses.
With Zimmerman returning to form, opposing pitchers are forced to pitch to Bryce Harper. Pitchers did not hesitate to walk Harper with Zimmerman struggling, but pitchers now have to pick their poison. A healthy and productive Zimmerman is terrific for the Nats.
Zimmerman has always been a streaky hitter and will likely go through a slump later this year, but he has not undergone his slump yet. His stats would lead you to believe that he got off to a horrific start in 2018. However, his slow start was mostly due to unbelievably poor luck.