Ryan Zimmerman had what you might call a poor April. Of course, he’s not the only one on the team that did, but after two disappointing and injury-prone seasons, there is some worry that maybe he isn’t a very good hitter anymore. However, it’s not time to worry about Zimmerman, at least not yet.
Actually, March and April doldrums are not unfamiliar to the Nats’ all-time leader in Wins Above Replacement. A career .283/.348/.474 hitter – he has only managed to hit .257/.323/.427 over his career in April. At first glance, it might not seem greatly different, but it is. It’s a 75 point different in OPS, enough to turn him from very good hitter to a not so good one.
More importantly, though, is that it there a definite pattern of poor performance early on in the season. Zimmerman claimed he didn’t need much time in spring training to get himself going, but maybe he isn’t looking back on his own career. The best thing for his bat might be if he started Spring Training when pitchers and catchers report.
Take a look at his numbers over his career
What this shows is tOPS+ by month. tOPS+ is essentially, for each season, the share of his OPS+ that he earned each month. A mere 83 in March and April, the second lowest of any month.
This isn’t exactly hardcore statistical analysis here, there are obviously some mathematical issues with doing this – but we certainly see something intriguing. It doesn’t look like he’s a good April hitter.
If we dive just a little bit deeper and take a look over the course of his career, we see a similar story. Below, we look season by season, with injury-missed months, and any where he had less than 40 plate appearances, not shown.
Caveating again, these are of course smaller sample sizes than the career numbers, and months are arbitrary endpoints when it comes to the season. The being said, we can clearly see a pattern develop.
He almost never hits well in March and April, the only time he hit better than his overall year’s numbers was in 2010. In 2009 he essentially hit his average for the year. All the other seasons that he played in April, six of them, he was much worse.
May, on the other hand, is the opposite. He has two seasons of below average pace, the rest are average or above. Unfortunately, June is then even worse for him, so even if he holds to his career pattern, it’s not necessarily smooth sailing after April.
July and August are when Zimmerman really heats up, and maybe that has something to do with his park, plays better for hitters in those hot summer months, too.
None of this is to say that Zimmerman will suddenly become an MVP candidate again once it turns 80 degrees outside. But there is reason for optimism.
There is another reason for optimism – last season. Despite his many health issues, from July 28 until September 7 last season, he was great. In that period, he hit an almost Bryce-ian .317/.372/.652 (sorry, that OBP would have to go up to call it positively Bryce-ian). This was not two or three years ago, before he turned 30 and injuries set in, this was 7 or 8 months ago
All that is to say that he has shown very recently that he can hit when given the opportunity, and when he was healthy. Zimmerman has always been a streaky hitter, and April has almost never been a good month for him. Health will always be a question for Ryan Zimmerman, but if he can maintain that, he should come out of his hitting funk soon.