When Ryan Zimmerman appears on a list, it usually means the end. That’s the case again as our 2018 Report Cards come to a close for the Washington Nationals
Ryan Zimmerman is used to finishing off alphabetically sorted lists, and our 2018 Report Cards are no different. The Washington Nationals stalwart was able to maintain his 2017 renaissance, but in what has been a familiar story for him in recent years, health was a huge issue.
Zimmerman now famously ended up not taking a single plate appearance at major league spring training, and it showed early on. In his first 17 games, he slashed .111/.186/.204 and it looked like the previous season may have been a fluke.
However, he soon found his swing and finished the year with a much more impressive slash line of .264/.337/.486 to go with 13 home runs and 51 RBI, which doesn’t look too shabby for a player who missed 58 games midseason due to a right oblique strain.
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The Positives for Zimmerman
After returning from the oblique injury, we saw the old Zimmerman come back with a vengeance as he hit .295 with a stellar .911 OPS which isn’t far off the .303 average and .930 OPS he produced last year. He actually increased his average exit velocity from 91.4 mph up to 92.6 mph in 2018, while his launch angle went slightly down from 8.6 degrees to 7.1 degrees. All in all, his late-career surge seems sustainable, as long as he’s healthy, so look for more of the same in 2019 from Zimmerman.
Somewhat surprisingly, Zimmerman on the whole actually impressed defensively at first base. Moved there in 2015 after his arm was fading badly, it was hoped that this could prolong his career. Not only is it doing that, but he’s also getting better there every season. In 2018, he finished with a 3.8 UZR/150, which essentially takes a player’s Ultimate Zone Rating and normalizes it to 150 games to take into account the differences in innings played. Zimmerman’s UZR/150 ranked fifth in the National League behind Brandon Belt, Freddie Freeman, Matt Adams, and Joey Votto while finishing a spot ahead of joint-gold glove winner Anthony Rizzo. Not bad company to be in.
Areas for Improvement
It’s time to face facts, the days of ironman Ryan Zimmerman are over. Those 162 games played back in 2007 are a distant memory, and the team needs to get him adequate rest in order to make sure he rarely hits the DL. A lot of this is actually going to be on Davey Martinez and the front office, rather than Zimmerman himself, in finding someone who can fill in and start two or three times a week if need be, and then finding the right time to play them. If they can do this, then it should keep Mr. Walkoff helathy much of the year, and hopefully, through October with a bit of luck.
Because of that disastrous start to the season he had, there will be no excuses this time, Zimmerman has to participate more in spring training in some form. While there was a lot of bad luck involved in that .111 batting average there was still a lot of swing in miss in his game then, with his contact percentage at 72.8 percent during the first 17 games compared to 79.7 percent the rest of the way. It was clear he didn’t quite have his eye in at that point, and hopefully, a full spring slate should remedy this in 2019.
The Final Grade
Ryan Zimmerman will enter the final guaranteed year of his current deal with the team in 2019. It’s entirely possible it could be his last season in D.C., but an extension could benefit both sides if he can continue to rake the way he has since the start of 2017.
But back to 2018, where even though he was raking for most of the year, it still felt like there was more to come from him. Given the missed time and slump at the start of the year, it’s tough to go too high with the overall grade. B
That’s all for our 2018 Report Cards. Hopefully, it provided some fair insight into the things the Washington Nationals players did well and need to improve on moving forward. Keep your eyes peeled at District on Deck for even more offseason coverage.