Don't Blame Zimmerman

Ryan's having the year all Nats fans have been waiting for

Don't blame Ryan Zimmerman for the Nats' crappy record.

Last night's homer extended his club-record hitting streak to 19 games.  He's hit safely in all but one.

He's finally hitting like all Nats fans thought and hoped he would when they drafted him in 2005 and anointed him the "Face of the Franchise."

Ryan's up to a .289/ .354/ .544 (batting/on-base/slugging) line.  All of those are career highs (except for the cup o' joe he had in '05).

What's changed for him?  He's getting more loft on the ball, for one.  He's hitting a lot more fly balls than he has in the past few seasons -- where runners on often resulted in an easy DP grounder.  Not only is he hitting 'em, but he's hitting them further -- the percentage of flyballs he hits that leave the park is a career high.

Short version: he's driving the ball.

Might that be the influence of new hitting coach Rick Eckstein?  The old batting coach placed an emphasis on hitting for contact, especially going the other way.  Eck's more of a wait for YOUR strike kind of instructor. 

Although Single-N is going the other way, he's doing so with power, hammering those pitches -- non-pitcher's pitches -- on the outer half of the plate.

But just as likely, it's that we're seeing a Zimmerman who's finally healthy.

Last season, he started the year with hamate problems.  The tiny little bone in the wrist often causes big problems for power hitters.  Once he came back, a shoulder problem hampered him for most of the middle of the season.

Better instruction, healthy body, and just the natural progression of a kid who was in the majors when he was 20: the Zimmerman we're seeing today, is the one we all hoped for.

Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment.  He still wishes he'd drop more surprise bunts down.

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