Ryan Zimmerman is currently fifth in all-star voting for NL 3B. He should be first, without any doubt whatsoever--unless you're some baseball-hating stupidhead who doesn't want a competitive all-star game and/or wouldn't know good baseball if it smacked into your backside as hard as a Strasburg four-seamer.
Is Ryan Zimmerman the best third baseman in the league this year? The season's best third baseman in baseball? The conclusive answer after the jump, which won't surprise you unless you don't know who Ryan Zimmerman is (or you're a baseball-hating stupidhead).
Zimmerman vs the NL: Zim Wins!
Let's start with hitting. Zimmy is batting 306/400/577, for an OPS+ of 158 and a wOBA of 414. That wOBA is 20 points ahead of David Wright, almost 60 points ahead of Placido Polanco, more than 60 points ahead of Casey McGehee, and over 80 points ahead of Chipper Jones. In fact, it's not only the best in the NL among 3B, it's second in the entire league! The numbers don't lie:
In addition to being the best-hitting 3B in the league, Zim is without a doubt the best defender. Zimmerman has the highest UZR among NL 3Bs even though he's had about 20% less playing time than most (UZR is a counting stat). His UZR/150, the equivalent rate stat, is also highest among NL 3Bs, at about 2.5 wins above average per season. Polanco's defense is 1.5 wins worse on a whole season at current rates, Wright is 2.5 wins worse, Jones is 3 wins worse, and McGeehee is almost 4 wins worse. Even going beyond the mega-propeller-head UZR to something simpler like revised zone rating, Zimmy's .757 RZR and 0.47 OOZ/9 (roughly, the percentage of plays you make on balls in "your zone" and the rate of plays per game you make outside "your zone") crush the league. The numbers tell a compelling story:
If highlight reels are your thing, check out this falling-away-throw-round-the-horn, an I-meant-to-do-that-shuffle, and some pwnage of the overrated Wright and McGehee.
If we add up offense and defense, we can figure out the total value of each player in terms of runs added/saved over a replacement-level player (runs above replacement or RAR--this converts directly into WAR, or wins above replacement, but I'm keeping it in terms of runs because it's a finer scale). For kicks, I also figured out RAR per 9 innings (which is slightly off because I don't count PH/DH at bats). Since we're looking for the player who'll give us the most RAR in the 9 innings of the AS game, RAR/9 is the real discriminator. Turns out it's not even close:
That's right, Zimmerman is more than 50% better that Wright or Polanco per 9 innings. Jones and McGehee shouldn't even be on the ballot. Who should be getting your vote for NL AS 3B? If it isn't Ryan Zimmerman, you are a baseball-hating stupidhead. (Note that Scott Rolen deserves to be in the running with his 22.7 RAR and 0.433 RAR/9.)
Zimmerman vs MLB: Zim wins!*
When we expand the question from "who's the best NL 3B" to "who's the best MLB 3B," we're really adding one name to the mix: Evan Longoria. I'll throw in Adrian Beltre for kicks, but no other AL 3Bs are even as good as NL also-ran David Wright. Putting together all the stats we looked at above for offense and defense, here's how it stacks up:
Longoria is almost as good a hitter as the Z-Man, with a wOBA and OPS+ only a few points behind. However, Zimmy is a much better defender, crushing the Rays' 3B in both the advanced and semi-advanced fielding stats. Interestingly, Beltre looks like almost as good a defender as Ryan; his UZR is slightly higher (entirely due to extra playing time--his UZR/150 is less than Zimmy's) and the RZR and OOZ/9 are split (but close) on who's stronger defensively. Of course, Zimmerman is easily the better hitter of the two. It would seem Zimmerman beats the two AL contenders easily, but we should add up the points as above to make sure. Here are the RAR and RAR/9:
Interesting! Apparently we have split decision: Beltre is certainly last (giving Scott Rolen a run for his money), but Longoria edges Zimmy slightly in RAR, while falling solidly behind in RAR/9. As I alluded to above, Zimmerman lost some playing time earlier this season with a hammy tweak. Longoria's slim RAR advantage is entirely due to having played 120 more innings so far this season than the Nationals' 3B. Over the course of a season, there's a good argument that a great third baseman who plays 150 games is more valuable than a greater third baseman who only plays 136 games (though Zimmy's gonna more than make up that 14 games' difference with his even-more-greater playing, at this rate). But, if we're just looking at a single game (like the AS game), the best player is one who produces the most in each game he plays. That player is Ryan Zimmerman, the best third baseman in the NL, and arguably the best in MLB.
Now, go vote for Zim, or else you're a baseball-hating stupidhead.
(Stats courtesy Fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com, pulled 6/14/2010)
*Yes, arguably Zimmy may be tied with Longoria or is second by the thinnest of smidgens. Are you happy now, you baseball-hating stupidhead?