Any discussion of Ryan Zimmerman’s defensive ability has to start here: “He’s awfully good the way he is,” Manager Davey Johnson. Zimmerman makes the charging play better than any third baseman in the league, better than some baseball men say they have ever seen it made. His range is elite. He can make throws to get the lead runner at second base from absurd angles. He can throw on the run with laser-guided accuracy.
But the discussion also must include what happens occasionally when a routine grounder rolls toward Zimmerman and a slow runner trundles down the first base line. Zimmerman has made 11 errors this season, many of them on throws when he has time, cocks backs, pauses awkwardly and sails it over Adam LaRoche’s head.
Zimmerman has worked exceedingly hard since last season to conquer his throwing bugaboo. He overhauled his mechanics, throwing more overhand in order to improve his consistency and prevent injury to his core, something he called one the hardest thing he’s ever done on a baseball field. The new mechanics seemed to cure him, but lately the balls have been bounded over by the tarp again.
The injury Zimmerman suffered to his right shoulder and ensuing cortisone shot complicated matters this year. Johnson is not worried enough to have talked to Zimmerman about his throwing, but he is concerned.
“Yeah,” Johnson said. “That’s the shoulder he’s had the problem with, with the shots. I’m sure there’s probably some impingement there or whatever. When that is, you don’t get up there and cut it loose, you’re going to have some mental problems as well. It’s hurting you, causing you to have a little discomfort. So it’s probably a little bit of both.”
Johnson said he would like to see Zimmerman stop “setting” the ball in his throwing motion, that little hesitation between bringing the ball back and rifling it to first. Catch it and throw it quick. Zimmerman has solved his issue before, and he is strong enough mentally to solve it again. In a pennant race, any small weakness can surface at the worst moment, and so Zimmerman’s throws are something to watch. The rest of his defensive game is still something to marvel at.
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