While this Nationals season has had lots of ups and downs, the one consistent has been the ongoing Ryan Zimmerman Resurgence. Though Ryan started raking on Opening Day and has not let up since, the narrative around his success has changed over time.
Due to several seasons of disappointing offensive numbers, the original narrative stuck simply to the “hot start” theory, fearing a potential regression back to his 2016 ways. Since Zimmerman kept on hitting, the narrative shifted to the newest baseball buzzword: launch angle. As the theory goes, noted baseball nerd Daniel Murphy imparted the wisdom of launch angle on Zimmerman, resulting in changes to Zimmerman’s swing to generate more loft. Though Murphy obviously preached the launch angle gospel to Zimmerman, the narrative took one last turn. According to Zimmerman, he has not focused on swing changes to get the ball in the air more, he’s simply healthy for the first time in years.
Various shoulder injuries, lat strains, broken bones, and most recently, plantar fasciitis. The laundry list of injuries Zimmerman has sustained is long and painful, to be sure. It’s hard, however, to find any data to prove that Zimmerman is finally healthy and that health is why Zimmerman has reverted back to be one of the best hitters in baseball. Hard to find that data, perhaps, until now.
MLB’s Statcast system has brought lots of new data and terminology to the baseball world, and they recently added their newest stat: Sprint Speed. Thanks to the wonders of the Statcast system, MLB can now isolate the top speed of each and every player. Unlike hitting or pitching, the ability to run fast should be relatively static over time. One of the few reasons a player’s top foot speed could change drastically is injury or recovery from injury.
Sure enough, Zimmerman’s sprint speed measurements provide pretty convincing data that he is, in fact, finally healthy. After top speeds of 26.2 ft/sec in 2015 and 26.4 ft/sec in 2016, he’s topping out at 27.0 ft/sec in 2017. That makes Zimmerman one of only 22 players in the majors to gain a half-foot per second or more on their top speeds, so this is no fluke.
With this data to prove that Zimmerman’s health has actually improved, it’s much easier to project that Zimmerman can keep hitting at his current levels and that he’s not riding an extended hot streak. So keep enjoying the Zimmerman Renaissance, though it looks like it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.Tags: Nationals, Nats, Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals