Monday, March 21, 2011

Ryan Zimmerman: Shortstop???

While reading an article on about their new Aggregate Defensive Rating (ADR) stat; which essentially takes several different defensive metrics, weights them appropriately, and comes out with an accurate measure of a player's defensive skill. It was in the midst of messing around with different player's ADR that I discovered that our very own Gold Glove winner, Ryan Zimmerman, has done more for this club than play 3B and DH. He has also appeared in 1 game as SS. Needless to say, I had to find out which game and when.

The only information I knew is that it was a game from September of 2005, his call-up. So, looking at those defensive metrics, I saw that Zimmerman had 2 errors - not great, but making my search a little bit easier. Essentially, in a game where there were at least 2 errors by one player, it was most likely a game where the Nats lost, and lost big-time. So, looking at September of '05, I started with the worst loss the team had, and sure enough, that was the 1 game that Zimmerman played shortstop; interestingly enough, his first career start. Let's delve into that game.

The date was September 7, 2005 and it was a gorgeous 76 degrees at game time. The Nats were clinging to a 72-67 record and trying to stay on the very fringe of a Wild Card birth, and they had hope to take a 2 games to 1 lead in the 4 game set. That hope didn't last very long, as the Nats' starter (John Halama) lasted just 0.2 innings, or 24 pitches. Halama only gave up one run, but it would serve as a harbinger for the entire game.

The real beauty of the game lied in the fact that in addition to the 2 errors, which we will get to, is that all 7 Nats pitchers that night gave up at least 1 Earned Run; Halama 1, Hughes 2, Bergmann 2, Eischen 1, Majewski 2, Carrasco 1, Stanton 1.

Anyway, Ryan Zimmerman played a little bit of short over in Charlottesville during his college days, so it was not outside of his comfort zone. Being his 1st start of his career, I'm sure that there were some jitters involved. The first of his two errors came in the top of the 7th inning on a ball off the bat from Juan Encarnacion, who would later score on a double by Former Nats Great PLoD. His second error came just 2 innings later on a shot by superstar Robert Andino, leading to a run by Mike Lowell (and sending Josh Willingham to 2nd).

As I said before, the Marlins went on the win the game 12-1 and in no way did Zimmerman have any real effect on the outcome, as the Nats were already down 8-1 when he made his first error. Also in effect was Dontrelle Willis carving up Nats' hitters to the tune of his 20th win of the season (my how things have changed...). But its definitely interesting to see that initially Zimmerman was brought up as a Left-Side infielder, not necessarily a 3B.

How might things be different in NatsTown had Zimmerman taken over for Cristian Guzman at short in the 2006 season? Post your thoughts in the comments!


  1. I guess that was the game that convinced F-Robby that Zim needed to start at his natural position even if it meant hurting aging Vinny C's feelings. I still shudder to think how much worse the Nats would have been these past few years had the Royals drafted Zim and allowed Alex Gordon to fall to us instead.

  2. Zim could still be playing SS for the Nats, or a lot of other teams. His range is greater than many SSs, which always impressed Barry Larkin when he was coaching/consulting with the Nats.

  3. Last year in ST Mark Z asked Zim why he was not playing short. Zim answered that it would take away from his offensive game by making him more active in the field, more mentally engaged in defensive, and force him to drop a few pounds. I think that the brass saw that the system had a few shortstops but no one as well suited for third offensively.