Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams should platoon

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 25: Matt Adams /

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is slumping. Matt Adams is raking.  Here’s why they should now split time at first base by platooning.

It’s no secret that Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is slumping.  Despite his early season struggles, manager Davey Martinez keeps writing his name in the cleanup spot of the batting order.  All the while, Zimmerman’s backup, Matt Adams, continues to roll.

In his last game against San Francisco, Adams drove in six Nationals while falling a triple shy of the cycle as he filled in for Zimmerman.

If Adams had enough at-bats to qualify for the major statical leaderboards, his OBP (.373) would rank 44th in the MLB, and his SLG (.524) would rank 34th. This season, that’s the equivalent of having Denard Span’s ability to get on base and Paul Goldschmidt’s ability to hit for power.

Zimmerman does qualify for those leaderboards.  His OBP (.261) ranks 158th out of the 177 eligible players.  His SLG (.375) ranks 121st.

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There is a definite issue here.  Zimmerman has 37 more plate appearances than Adams, which cannot happen when the statistical discrepancies are this large.  And Martinez knows it too.

Martinez knows he needs to get Adams more playing time.  He’s even put Adams in left field, his secondary position, three times this season to get his bat in the lineup.  But, by keeping Zimmerman’s bat in the lineup, the negatives will negate or even outweigh the positives.

However, there is one straightforward solution to solve these problems.  Zimmerman and Adams need to platoon for one another at first base.

While Zimmerman’s season stats show his abysmal start, it doesn’t do him justice.  He does do one thing exceptionally well, and that is crush left-handed pitching.  His .893 OPS against lefties is fantastic.  His career OPS mark of .904 shows that is not a fluke.

Zimmerman’s big problems come against right-handed pitchers.  His OPS of .521 against them do not do his team, or himself, any favors.

On the flip side, Adams rakes against right-handed pitching. His OPS of .995 is extremely elite. While the sample size is small, his advanced metrics look even better with a .427 weighted on-base average (wOBA) and .324 isolated power (ISO).

Adams’ career numbers back this up as well.  His .286 BA and .832 OPS are both great to go along with a .355 wOBA.

By platooning Adams against right-handed pitching and Zimmerman against left-handed pitching, the Nationals get the best of both worlds without sacrificing anything, offensively or defensively.  Because let’s face it, Matt Adams is not the ideal option to be playing left field until Adam Eaton returns.

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This scenario would likely upset Zimmerman since he is the Nats longest-tenured player, and a platoon role is not what he wants coming off of his best season in years.  But, at this time, him accepting this role is what would benefit the team the most.