Today is the start of a potentially award-laden 48 or so hours for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
The Rawlings Gold Glove winners for the National League are scheduled to be announced this afternoon at 3:30 p.m., and Zimmerman is in the running to collect the prized hardware for a second consecutive season. This evening, he’s one of the models who will help the Nats unveil new uniforms at an invitation-only event at Nationals Park. Then, tomorrow at 6 p.m., the Silver Sluggers will be revealed in a broadcast on the MLB Network, the first time they’ve been announced live on national television.
Zimmerman committed 17 errors in 344 chances over 137 games in 2010, a career-low .951 fielding percentage. Because of a rib-cage strain that shelved him after Sept. 22, Zimmerman played in 17 fewer games than in 2009, when he the same number of errors and a .963 fielding mark. His Ultimate Zone Rating - a metric that quantifies the number of runs allowed or saved by a fielder’s prowess - was 13.9.
He’s got some stiff competition, however, in the form of San Diego’s Chase Headley (13 errors, .966 fielding percentage, 16.5 UZR) and Philadelphia’s Placido Polanco (five errors, .986 fielding percentage, 10.0 UZR). But because Gold Glove awards are voted on by managers and coaches, reputation is as important as actual statistics, and Zimmerman has a stellar defensive resume. In the Fielding Bible Awards, a vote by sabremetricians, Zimmerman barely failed to win as the best-fielding third baseman in the majors for a second straight year, finishing second to Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria.
Back in spring training, manager Jim Riggleman paid Zimmerman the highest of compliments, likening his smooth across-the-body throws to first base to the effortless defensive style of Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, who won 16 Gold Gloves - the most by any third baseman - for the Baltimore Orioles.
“(Zimmerman’s) arm strength is good. When Ryan needs to make a throw, he can make it,” Riggleman said. “Brooks didn’t fire it over there. Brooks just had that real clean, accurate arm and when he needed to make a throw with just a little extra on it, he always seemed to have it. I think Ryan kind of plays the position along those lines.”
Offensively, the 26-year-old Zimmerman makes a strong case for a second consecutive Silver Slugger, too - a .307 average with 25 homers and 86 RBIs despite missing 20 games with various injuries. Among qualifying National League third baseman, Zimmerman was tops in batting average, on-base percentage (.388), slugging percentage (.510) and walks (69). Zimmerman’s chief competition for the Silver Slugger is David Wright, who hit .283 with 29 homers and 103 RBIs for the Mets.