Ryan Zimmerman’s arm might have stayed out of the media spotlight had things gone well in Miami this week. Of his three errors against the Braves over the weekend, one was only marginally troubling, and could easily have resulted in an out. And had Zimmerman followed that up with a long string of normal throws, maybe people could have chilled out.
But another throwing error on Tuesday — which seemed to lead to Dan Haren’s unraveling and a loss to the lowly Marlins — put Zimmerman and his arm right back in the spotlight, leading to a lengthy discussion on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight about just what is going on here.
“It probably doesn’t hurt from down there,” John Kruk said over video of a Zimmerman sidearm throw. “That’s why those girls in softball can throw 400 innings a year.”
“I mean, he looks like he’s throwing the ball from literally down under,” host Karl Ravech said. “What has gone wrong for him?”
“His problem is when he throws overhand,” Kruk said, over video from 2006. “His release point is so far away from his head….Look at this in 2006: He gets up, the ball’s right by his ear, and he throws it from right there. He’s accurate, the throw’s right at the chest of the first baseman Nick Johnson. And that’s the way he’s doing it.
“Now this year, take a look,” Kruk said, over this image from 2013. “He catches this, he has all the time in the world. See the cuff right down there? The ball’s behind him. It should be up higher, by his ear. And by the time he gets it up there, his body’s so far out in front that he throws from a side-arm motion. That’s why everything’s tailing away from the first baseman and into the runner, where Adam LaRoche has to come off the base, try to catch it and come back.”
“He’s recovering from surgery, we assume he’s okay,” Ravech said to the third member of the panel, one Manny Acta. “Is this mental, physical, both?”
“I think it’s a combination, because he’s had that issue in the past but it never lasted this long,” Acta said. “Mechanical, on the lower half, it’s something that he used to come out early and just work on right to left, left to target. What I mean by that is your right foot goes over to your left foot and your left foot points to the target. You can close your eyes and release the ball, and it’ll be right over there on the first-base area.
“He had the surgery; he is not hurting because he’s not bouncing the ball,” Acta later said. “He’s got enough power on the ball, but it’s going all over the place. He’s always had issues with balls that he had plenty of time, he had to think about it. When the brain is off, when he’s charging balls and flipping it under-arm, he had no issue whatsoever. This is something that can be corrected, but if not, it’s something that down the road they’re probably going to have to deal with.”