Ryan Zimmerman

From BR Bullpen

2005 Bowman Heritage #340 Ryan Zimmerman

Ryan Wallace Zimmerman
(Mr. Walk-Off)

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

Zimmerman seen from the rear

Ryan Zimmerman hit .308/.340/.376 as a college freshman at the University of Virginia. He improved to .361/.395/.454 the next year and was fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in average, making the All-Conference team at third base. In 2005, Ryan hit .393/.469/.581 to finish 5th in the ACC again in average. Ryan Braun beat him out for the All-Conference team though Zimmerman was picked 4th in the 2005 amateur draft, one spot ahead of Braun. Scouted by Alex Smith, he signed for $2,975,000. He was anmed as a second-team All-American by Baseball America, as Alex Gordon was picked as the top third baseman and Braun was a first-team DH.

While playing for a Virginia traveling team, Zimmerman wasn't able to start at his natural positions, shortstop and third base. This was because those positions were occupied by third basemen David Wright and shortstop B.J. Upton. Zimmerman had to play first and second base instead.

After they signed him soon after the draft in June of 2005, the Washington Nationals started Ryan with the mid-A Savannah Sand Gnats and he hit .471/.471/1.059 in 4 games, producing 9 runs. He was called up to the Harrisburg Senators, where he batted .326/.371/.528 in 63 games despite being at only .247 as of July 21st. He then was a September call-up and hit .397/.419/.569 in his first 20 games in the majors, becoming the first Nationals draft pick in the major leagues. Baseball America named him the #5 prospect in the Eastern League, between Jon Lester and Nick Markakis.

In 2006, Zimmerman became only the third National League rookie in the last 50 years with 100 RBIs, joining Albert Pujols (130 in 2001) and Mike Piazza (112 in 1993). Overall, Zimmerman hit .287/.351/.471 for the 2006 Nationals with 47 doubles, 20 homers and 110 RBI. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year vote, behind Hanley Ramirez. In 2007, he played in all 162 games for the Nats, hitting .266 with 43 doubles and 24 homers, scoring 99 runs and driving in 91.

Zimmerman shakes hands with the President

Zimmerman opened Nationals Park with a bang. On Opening Day, 2008, he hit a two-out, bottom-of-the-9th homer off of Peter Moylan to give Washington a 3-2 win over the AtlantaBraves. He hit .283 in 106 games that year, then had his best season in 2009, posting a batting line of .292/.364/.525 in 157 games, with 37 doubles, a career-high 33 homers, and 106 RBI. He made the All-Star team for the first time that summer. During the season, he had a streak of 43 consecutive games in which he reached base safely; this was the Nationals record until broken by Jayson Werth in 2016.

Zimmerman caught Barack Obama's first pitch during the 2010 Opening Day ceremony. He went on to have another very productive season, hitting .307/.388/.510 in 142 games, with 32 doubles and 25 homers. He missed 58 games at the start of the 2011 season after going on the disabled list on April 10th with an abdominal strain, and only coming back on June 14th. He was off to a great start, hitting .357 in 8 games before the injury. He still managed to play 101 games, hitting .289 but with only 12 homers and 49 RBI. Still, the Nationals were no too worried by the fall in production as on February 26, 2012, as spring training was getting under way, they announced that they had signed Ryan to a contract extension worth $100 million that would keep him with the team until 2019. He had his customary productive season that year, hitting .282/.346/.478 in 145 games, with 36 doubles, 25 homers and 95 RBI as the Nationals posted the best record in the National League. He was outstanding in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, going 8 for 21 (.381) with a double and a pair of homers, but the Nats still lost in five games.

On May 29, 2013, he had the first three-homer game of his career against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. He homered in his first three at-bats, driving in 4 runs, as the Nats took a 6-3 lead into the 7th inning, but the team then collapsed, losing the game, 9-6. The Chicago Cubs' Dioner Navarro also hit three homers that day, making it only the 14th time that two players had collected three homers on the same day. However, it was a frustrating season for Ryan and the Nats, as the team struggled to play .500 ball, while Zimmerman suffered from problems with his throwing, resulting from off-season shoulder surgery. He had committed 17 errors by the start of August and was fielding only .934, prompting manager Davey Johnson to wonder aloud whether he should not be moved to another position. He finished the season with a .275 average in 147 games, 26 homers and 79 RBIs; his fielding percentage improved to .945 and he led the NL in putouts at third base; he did finish second with 21 errors at the position, while Pedro Alvarez the Pittsburgh Pirates committed 27.

There was another issue with Zimmerman's fielding at the start of 2014, as he complained of shoulder problems and tried making some throws side-arm to ease the pain although he kept on playing. On April 12th, he was the victim of a more immediate injury, though, when he broke a finger trying to return to first base when picked off by Alex Wood of the Atlanta Braves. That sent him to the disabled list for the fourth straight year. He was hitting .364 at the time of the injury. On a rehabilitation assignment with the Potomac Cannons in late May, he was made to play left field, an indication that he was likely to play there in the future given his chronic throwing problems. For the time being, he had to learn the position from scratch, having never played it as a professional. He was indeed the Nats' left-fielder when he returned to the line-up on June 3rd, the position being free in the absence of the injured Bryce Harper; he hit two doubles and drove another ball to the warning track in his first game back, in a 7-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Left open was where Zimmerman would play when Harper was ready to return in a month's time. By June 28th, when Harper was ready to return, Zimmerman's batting average had fallen to .233 and he had added only one homer since his return. Still, manager Matt Williams decided to keep him in the line-up and move him back to third base, and he immediately found his hitting stroke again, going 3-for-4 in his next game on June 30th, and keeping up the hits after that. On July 22nd, he had raised his average to .282 when he suffered another injury, this time a hamstring pull suffered when running to first base. He went back to the DL and was not back until September 20th. In his first game back, he collected two hits, including an RBI triple, in a 3-2 win over the Miami Marlins. He ended up with a .280 average in 61 games, with 5 homers and 38 RBIs. The Nationals won their second Division title in three years that season, but Ryan was not a starter in the postseason, going 1 for 4 as the Nats lost in four games to the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series.

2015 was a difficult year for Zimmerman, as he continued to have injury problems, being limited to 95 games. He was now a full-time first baseman and hit .249 with 25 doubles and 16 homers, driving in 73 runs. The power meant that he was still an above-average offensive player, with an OPS+ of 105. That figure had been above 100 in every single one of his 11 major league seasons, so it was actually the second-lowest of his career, after a 103 in 2008. In spite of being overwhelming preseason favorites to repeat as NL East champs, the Nationals collapsed in the second half that year, finishing well behind the first-place New York Mets and well out of the postseason picture. With Ryan's future uncertain, the Al-Jazeera news network ran a documentary in December entitled The Dark Side, accusing him and Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, among other top class athletes, of having taken performance-enhancing drugs in trying to come back from recent injuries. While both players denied the story through their agents, and sued the network for defamation in early January, 2016, it was not a positive development for Zimmerman.

Zimmerman had a tremendous month of April in 2017, winning National League Player of the Month honors on the strength of a .420 average with 11 homers, 22 runs scored and 29 RBIs. He was leading the league in all three Triple Crown categories at that early point of the season. He continued to hit well over the next couple of months and as a result was voted the starting first baseman for the National League at the 2017 All-Star Game. On July 17th, he hit home run #235 for his career, which moved him past Vladimir Guerrero as the top home run hitter in franchise history; of course, Guerrero had hit all of his long balls while playing for the Montréal Expos, and Zimmerman all of his for the Nationals. He finished the year at .303 with 36 homers and 108 RBIs, setting a personal best for homers and coming within 2 RBIs of his best total; it was also only the second time that he had batted over .300 over a full season. He had a disappointing postseason, though, as he went just 3 for 20 (.150) with a double and a homer as Washington was eliminated by the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series.

On April 18, 2018, he became the all-time leading home run hitter among players whose last name starts with the letter "Z". He hit two homers that day, #253 and #254 for his career, allowing him to tie and pass the previous record holder, Todd Zeile. On July 31st, in Washington's record-setting 25-4 win over the New York Mets, he passed Tim Wallach as the all-time franchise leader for hits with 1,695. He was now the all-time leader for hits, homers and RBIs. He ended the season at .264 in 85 games, with 13 homers and 51 RBIs. 2019 saw him play only 52 games, but it was his most memorable season as the Nationals won the first World Series title in franchise history, and he was of course the team's longest-serving player. He hit .257 with 6 homers and 27 homers as Matt Adams was the team's primary first baseman during the season, but it was he and late-season acquisition Howie Kendrick who saw the most action during the postseason. He had 14 hits over the four rounds of the playoffs, with 5 runs and 7 RBIs. In Game 1 of the World Series against the Houston Astros on October 22nd, he hit a key home run off Astros ace Gerrit Cole in the 2nd inning as the Nationals went on to win the game, 5-4.

On June 29, 2020, with training camp about to resume following the interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, he announced that he would sit out the abridged season due to concerns over the health of members of his family. He then made a remarkable comeback in 2021, playing 110 games and batting .243 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs while sharing first base duties with Josh Bell. His OPS+ was back above 100, at 104. However, he turned 37 just as the season ended and there was a question whether he would continue to play given the Nats were now undergoing a through rebuild after proceding with a fire sale during the summer. He announced his retirement the following February. That spring, the Nationals announced that they would officially retire Ryan's uniform number, 11, at a ceremony to be held on June 18th. While the Nationals' predecessors, the Montreal Expos, had retired a few numbers, it was the first time that the Nats would themselves proceed with such a gesture.

Zimmerman has hit a total of 11 walk-off homers during his career, tied for the 8th most in history. This included a number of memorable games, including the first one ever played at Nationals Park back in 2008. What is remarkable about this stat is that those who have hit as many or more are all Hall of Famers (apart from Albert Pujols, who is still active) and well-known sluggers; for his part, Zimmerman just seems to have a knack for getting hits in walk-off situations: at the end of 2020, his career batting average in such situations was .303 while his career BA was .278. Among players with 100 or more at-bats in such situations, only Nick Markakis had performed better in terms of batting average, but while hitting just 2 homers in comparison to Ryan's 11.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jessica Camerato: "Nationals lifer Ryan Zimmerman retires: Franchise icon ends 16-year career: 'Ryan will forever be Mr. National'", mlb.com, February 15, 2022. [1]
  • Gabe Lacques: "After years of misery, Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman enjoying resurgence", USA Today Sports, May 10, 2017. [2]
  • Mike Lupica: "'Mr. National' will live forever in franchise lore", mlb.com, February 16, 2022. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman sitting out 2020 season: 'Best decision for me and my family'", USA Today, June 29, 2020. [4]
  • Joe Trezza: "Nationals to retire Zimmerman's No. 11: 'Mr. National' will be team's first player to receive honor", mlb.com, March 21, 2022. [5]
  • Steven C. Weiner: "Ryan Zimmerman and the Walk-Off Home Run", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 50, Number 2 (Fall 2021), pp. 7-12.

Related Sites[edit]