Ryan Zimmerman Turns Back The Clock
Stationed in the nation’s capital and playing its beloved pastime, the Washington Nationals have certainly shown off their patriotism in dominating fashion this season.
After topping the National League East standings in 2016 with a 95-67 mark, the Nats are once again leading the pack at 24-13, eight games up on the struggling New York Mets.
Coming off an incredible 2016 season, second baseman Daniel Murphy has continued to mash with a .317 average, six home runs and 30 RBIs. Stud outfielder Bryce Harper, who just inked a record-breaking contract for an arbitration-eligible player, has shown that his down year last season was a fluke. The 24-year-old is hitting .384 with an astounding 12 homers and 34 RBIs.
Flame-throwing ace and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer has baffled hitters to the tune of a 2.80 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 70 strikeouts at 11.5 K/9. Fellow pitcher, southpaw Gio Gonzalez, has been turning back the clocks to his 2012 all-star campaign with a 2.47 ERA and 41 Ks for a 3-1 record early on.
However, Gonzalez is not the only National turning back the clocks this season. On a team with Harper and Murphy slugging prolific numbers at the plate, and one of the league’s best strikeout machines cruising on the hill, 32-year-old first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has stolen the spotlight. While Zimmerman has been a solid power bat for the Nationals for over a decade, the one-time all-star has batted over .300 in a season just once in his career. In his all-star campaign, all the way back in 2009, he set career-highs with 33 home runs and 106 RBIs when he was Harper’s age. Zimmerman is coming off a 2016 season where he played just 115 games and hit a meager .218 for 15 home runs and 46 RBIs.
2017 has been an entirely different story, though. Through the Nats’ first 37 games of the season, the veteran first baseman is slashing .385/.430/1.222 (average, OBP, OPS) for 13 home runs and 36 RBIs. To put this into perspective, Zimmerman is hitting at a higher average with more home runs and RBIs than Harper, who is demanding a 400 million dollar contract when he soon becomes a free agent.
With the team now crushing their fellow National League opponents, it is easy to forget what the Nats looked like less than 10 years ago. Zimmerman has been on the team since the start of his career in 2005, and he has endured quite a few tough seasons of baseball as a result. In 2008 the club finished 32.5 games back with a 59-102 record, and followed it up in 2009 with a 59-103 record. However, the then-young Zimmerman, who was a lockdown third baseman at the time, was the face of the franchise. As an all-star in 2009, Zimmerman also picked up Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards for both his defensive and offensive excellence.
Now manning the other, less physically taxing side of the diamond, Zimmerman is easily forgotten on a Nationals team that now dominates the league with an abundance of superstars.
The Nationals worked their way up to the top over the past few years, even with Zimmerman’s numbers declining. The squad was number one in the NL East last year even with Harper’s relative struggles at the plate. With Murphy producing at the same level, Harper living up to his expected MVP-caliber potential and Zimmerman’s shocking numbers, the team appears to be unstoppable. The real question is can Zimmerman once again become the face of the rebuilt franchise?
After years of forgettable seasons and lack of recognition, it appears the slugger wants to make his presence known across the league once again.
The MLB season is still young, but fans should be eager to see if Zimmerman can keep up his ridiculous levels of success at the plate. Either way, the completely transformed Nationals should continue to be thrilling to watch.