Can Ryan Zimmerman hit 30+ homeruns again?

Finally, Ryan Zimmerman’s breakout season arrived.  After years of putting up good, not great numbers and being touted as one of the best young third basemen in the game, Zimmerman stayed healthy and found the 30-plus home run power stroke that had eluded him over three Major League seasons.  With a number of 25-plus home run hitting third basemen competing for his spot in fantasy rankings, the big question will be: Can he repeat the 30 home run feat?  Or will 2009 go down as his career year?

 

 

Since his first full season in 2006, Zimmerman had been quite a consistent player when it came to his peripheral numbers, but in 2009 he had some major breakthroughs in some major statistical areas…

 

AB

BB%

K%

GB%

FB%

HR/FB%

AB/HR

O-Sw%

CT%

2006

614

8.9%

19.5%

42.3%

35.9%

11.4%

30.7

23.7%

80.6%

2007

653

8.4%

19.1%

43.5%

39.5%

11.4%

27.2

27.0%

81.6%

2008

428

6.7%

16.6%

46.1%

34.1%

11.5%

30.6

25.2%

83.6%

2009

610

10.4%

19.5%

39.6%

41.6%

15.9%

18.5

21.3%

81.1%

 

 

 

For his first three seasons, Zimmerman hit more groundballs than fly balls.  He also consistently walked about eight and a half to nine percent of the time while striking out about 19 percent of the time.  2008’s variations can be attributed to an injury that limited him to only 428 at bats.  During those three seasons Zimmerman would connect for a home run about once every 27 to 30 at-bats.  This is where the biggest change comes from last season.  In 2009 Zimmerman hit one home run every 18 and a half at bats.  The change came from a new approach at the plate.

 

For the first time in his career, Zimmerman hit more fly balls than ground balls.  At the same time, Zimmerman was becoming more selective at the plate, drawing a career high 72 walks while maintaining a strikeout rate in line with what he had done in the past.  It was also the season in which Zimmerman surpassed 2500 career plate appearances.  As he felt more comfortable at the plate, he began to put more lift into his swing and the ball started to leave the yard more frequently.

 

Here comes the negative aspect of Zimmerman’s 2009 season.   According to hittrackeronline.com, 14 of his home runs were classified as “Just Enough” with three more being classified as “Lucky” (details on classifications can be found here).  However, the average standard distance of his home runs (403.2 ft) was above the league average, which is about 396 ft.  But how does that measure up to some of the third basemen just behind him in the rankings?  Kevin Youkilis had 13 home runs that were classified as “Just Enough” and that number was only seven for Pablo Sandoval.  Still, those two didn’t hit as many home runs total as Zimmerman in 2009.

 

Does that even have a bearing on his 2010 projection?  Maybe a little, but then again, he is an already talented hitter who could just be getting better (see: Butler, Billy).  There is no proven correlation between Hit Tracker’s “Just Enough” home runs and how it affects a hitter the following year (I learned this from Mark DeRosa going from the Cubs to the Indians). 

 

Considering his consistent home run rates in the past, projections show Zimmerman as in line for a regression in power.  However, given that he should just now be entering his prime at age 26 and given the fact that scouts projected him to be a 30 home run hitter in the majors, any regression should be minimal at best. 

 

If Zimmerman can stay healthy and accumulate another 600-plus at-bat season, the chances are his home run total will be closer to 30 than 25.  Once A-Rod, Evan Longoria and David Wright come off the board on draft day, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Ryan Zimmerman.