Before his departure, Natty Ned Devine conducted one of his welcomed and familiar positional analyses, in which he compared the combined offensive production of each position on the Natty diamond to the National League's arithmetic mean at each position---or the average, if you will, not to be confused with merely batting average. In the midst of the analysis, Chris noted that Ryan Zimmerman's excellent rookie performance trails the NL average at third base, commenting rather morosely:
Now, as Chris noted and as we shall see again in a second, Zimmerman's production just barely trails the NL average. In truth, Chris was more bemoaning the fact that a mere 17 at-bats by Zimmerman's hot corner replacements dropped the positional slugging average by a whole ten points, a rather confounding and, indeed, depressing ratio (and effect). So, rest assured, Chris was not slamming Zimmerman---not in the least. But it does seem disappointing that this seemingly exceptional performance affords no advantage (prior to park adjustments) over the remainder of the NL's regular third basemen.
The thought occurred to me during the all-star break that this in truth isn't really all that discomforting. Rather, it seems easily explained: This is seemingly a very strong offensive year for NL third sackers. It's something that I'm certain Chris realizes---and something that Harper congently explored recently.
Yet, I did wonder, as an historical matter, whether this is indeed a strong year at the hot corner. Well, I'm not going to create an historically comprehensive table; like Frank Robinson, I barely know how to turn on a computer. But I can do a short table, so I thought I would. With the assistance of the Baseball Direct stats site, the following table tracks the average NL offensive production at third base from 2000 until the present. And guess what? It is indeed a very strong offensive season at third base, exceptionally so:
|Ryan Zimmerman 2006||.279/.350/.470||820|
|NL Average 3B 2006||.280/.351/.474||825|
|NL Average 3B 2005||.274/.344/.439||783|
|NL Average 3B 2004||.276/.339/.452||791|
|NL Average 3B 2003||.256/.323/.416||739|
|NL Average 3B 2002||.260/.326/.407||733|
|NL Average 3B 2001||.277/.342/.451||793|
|NL Average 3B 2000||.269/.340/.444||777|
Zimmerman's 2006 season would easily exceed the NL average at third base in every season over the course of the sample; in a couple of seasons, Zimmerman's campaign would dwarf the positional average. Make no mistake---this definitely appears to be a great season for NL third basemen.
Now, this is a bit of a precarious methodology, because it's blind to general offensive levels in the NL over the span of the sample. If this is a great offensive year, for instance, the magnitude of the position's offensive competitiveness would be diluted to some degree. So let's cross our tees and dot our eyes, so to speak:
I think the conclusion is quite apparent: This is a very good season for NL third sackers, and the fact that Zimmerman is a competitive third baseman in this, his rookie season, is a cause for significant celebration. He's had a hell of a year.