After sweeping the New York Mets on the road this past weekend, the Washington Nationals are now on top of the NL East with a 13-5 record. While the year is still young, getting out to this fast start is an impressive feat for the Nationals, regardless of it still being April. Their early season success has been greatly generated by their production at the pate, but one bat in particular – Ryan Zimmerman. In fact, Ryan Zimmerman’s offensive surge has been key to the Nationals dominant start.
Ryan Zimmerman’s Offensive Surge Key to Nationals Dominant Start
Coming into the 2017 MLB season, the Nationals lineup was formatted in a bizarre way. With the speedster Trea Turner leading off and three lefties hitting behind him (Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy), the top of the Nationals lineup was lefty-heavy. Zimmerman hit in the five spot – a questionable decision by manager Dusty Baker, given Zimmerman’s decline in production over the last few years.
Zimmerman’s 2014-16 Regression
In years past, Zimmerman had seen a drop in production at the plate. After a 2013 campaign in which he hit .275 and drove in 89 runs, Zimmerman began to regress in 2014 – mostly due to an inability to stay on the field. In 2014, he missed 101 games, and as a result drove in just 38 runs. After his nightmare 2014 season, he was moved to first base, despite playing third his entire career. Zimmerman still regressed further, in terms of durability.
In 2015, Zimmerman missed 67 games and posted some of the worst numbers of his career at the plate. Hitting a career low .249, Zimmerman saw a huge offensive decline, in terms of consistency, to the point where the thought that his best days could be well behind him developed. The 2016 season only added onto that notion.
In 2016, he missed just 47 games, but yet again hit a career low at the plate (.218), driving in just 46 runs. His struggles in the 2016 season, as well as those of the year before, appeared to signal loud and clear that Zimmerman’s best days were indeed gone. However, the 2017 season has served as a revival campaign for him so far, as he’s hitting at an elite level – a level deemed virtually impossible just a year ago.
Zimmerman’s 2017 Revival
So far this year, Zimmerman has been a force to be reckoned with at the plate. Hitting a remarkable .387, he currently owns the second-highest average on the Nationals, behind Harper. In addition to hitting for a high average, Zimmerman is also displaying power. By driving in 16 runs, added onto the six home runs he’s hit so far, Zimmerman has been an all-around presence at the plate for the Nationals. He’s also been the key to the recent shakeup in their lineup.
Zimmerman has Forced a Lineup Maneuver for the Better
As a result of his production at the plate, Baker has decided to tweak his lineup. Doing so has done and will continue to do wonders for the Nationals lineup.
The Nationals new order has Zimmerman hitting in the cleanup hole, behind Harper and in front of Murphy. In front of Harper, it’s Eaton in the leadoff spot and Turner (fresh off of the disabled list) in the two-hole. This new order is more balanced and sound, and Zimmerman’s production sparked this change. He forced Baker to put him in the cleanup hole, moving him up in the order, and simultaneously making the Nationals order more balanced, with righties and lefties not hitting back-to-back as often.
Zimmerman has the hot bat in the nation’s capital right now. If he continues to hit at a high level, the Nationals lineup could very well become the best in the majors.