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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

WaPo (Chris Needham): When Ryan Zimmerman was baseball’s best third baseman

Original Nats blogger (and BBTF’s own) Chris Needham guests at the Washington Post with a requiem for Ryan Zimmerman’s defensive glory days:

Once, Ryan Zimmerman was among the very best to ever play third. Tuesday night, he’s a left fielder, a position so unimportant defensively, the Nats buried oafs such as Adam Dunn, Wily Mo Pena and Michael Morse out there. [...]

From about 2006 through 2009, there was not a better defensive third baseman in the league. (Not even you, Scott Rolen.) And there were flashes of utter insanity with the glove — weeks where he made play after play as perfectly as any third baseman humanly could. That’s the player we should remember. Not the sore-armed, oft-injured guy that made us all pucker up a bit when a speedy runner hit a soft grounder in his direction.

Maybe it’s lost a bit because so few people actually watched the games. The team was pretty bad then, and MASN, if available at all, was pretty hard to find. I think a lot of people understand how good he was by reputation, not by having actually seeing him. I’m a little bit cynical (read: a lot cynical) and not all that prone to nostalgia, but I saw him. I know the magic he was capable of. One quick example: In 2007, he turned (as in turned, not started) seven double plays. Stop and think about that for a second.

At his best, Zimmerman did it all. He had amazing range, routinely stabbing balls down the line or digging deep into the hole at short. He had quick-as-a-flash reflexes, always starting his glove down low, then bring it up high to snare a ball that would have nailed him in the shins or taken a funny bounce up high. Remember his quick release on those swinging bunts? There was a time you looked forward to his throws! When he was feeling confident, you could see it.

He, more than any other player, loved throwing to second to get the lead runner. Other third basemen would make a routine throw to first for a force play. Not Zimmerman. He chucked it hard, and fast, often pirouetting nearly ninety degrees to get into position for the throw to second. And more than a few times, that quick thinking and supreme confidence in his abilities created a double play out of thin air. He was utterly magical.

But you probably noticed that last paragraph was all in the past tense. That Ryan Zimmerman is gone now.

Esoteric Posted: June 04, 2014 at 08:35 PM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: washington nationals

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   1. Greg K Posted: June 04, 2014 at 11:37 PM (#4719393)
I remember a few years ago when comparing Zimmerman to David Wright thinking, "I'd maybe take Wright now, but Zimmerman is younger and more likely to stick at third, no brainer who to take for the future".

Baseball can be a bummer sometimes.

Also, does anyone ever call him Dave Wright? Don't think I've ever heard that.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: June 05, 2014 at 05:22 AM (#4719449)
From about 2006 through 2009, there was not a better defensive third baseman in the league. (Not even you, Scott Rolen.) And there were flashes of utter insanity with the glove — weeks where he made play after play as perfectly as any third baseman humanly could. That’s the player we should remember. Not the sore-armed, oft-injured guy that made us all pucker up a bit when a speedy runner hit a soft grounder in his direction.


Bb-ref respectfully disagrees, 54 rfield vs 48 for the two(in about 80 fewer games for Rolen)

Zimmerman always had a bit of a wild arm, that hurt his overall defensive value, despite the terrific hands.
   3. Bourbon Samurai, what price fettucine? Posted: June 05, 2014 at 08:48 AM (#4719472)
Was at the game last night- there was one play where he looked pretty lost on a fly to left. better he do it now while the bats seem to be working.
   4. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: June 05, 2014 at 10:44 AM (#4719577)
Outstanding writeup Chris. And congrats on making the Post.

Yep, for a couple of years, Zimmerman was absolutely one of the best players in baseball. What happened to his shoulder is just tragic.
   5. shoewizard Posted: June 05, 2014 at 11:13 AM (#4719606)
Not as tragic as what happened to Brandon Webb's shoulder. At lease Zimmerman can still hit.

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