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Zimmerman’s mental hurdle

Apr 17, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

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Ryan Zimmerman throws wide last night for his fourth error of the year.

MIAMI — Ryan Zimmerman has more range than perhaps any third baseman in baseball. He makes off-balance, acrobatic throws across the diamond look simple. He owns one Gold Glove Award (2009) and played well enough to deserve another one the following year.

But there's no hiding the fact the Nationals' veteran infielder is battling a serious mental hurdle right now, one affecting his ability to make routine throws with the kind of frequency required of a big-league third baseman.

Zimmerman's fourth-inning error during last night's 8-2 loss to the Marlins was merely the latest, costly example. He's now been charged with four throwing errors over his last five games. And that doesn't include a number of routine throws that were not on target but were close enough for first baseman Adam LaRoche to snag without taking his foot off the bag.

And for the first time last night, Zimmerman publicly acknowledged the mental challenge he's facing, insisting there's nothing physically preventing him from making those throws, most notably hisRead more »

  1. natscan reduxit - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    … don't you just hate those "told you so" people (guys like me)?http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/44989668/Go Nats!! Go (away) Bill James!! … now to rid the world of the DH.

  2. natsfan1a - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Carrying forward:natsfan1a said… (Second attempt, as the first evidently went off into the ether.) Must be kinda hard for Zimm to stay out of his own head with so many others trying to get in there. ("Poke, poke. Everything okay in there? Zimm? Hello?") April 17, 2013 9:12 AM

  3. UnkyD - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Glad to see it out in the open…kudos to Zim, for not hiding from this, and Desi, though I keeping he couldn't possibly rise any higher in my estimation, takes it up another notch… The very definition of "Class Act".

  4. Eric - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Great article. Thanks for sharing so much of what Desmond has to say about the issue.

  5. BigCat - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    i have tried to pull up video from Zims first few years in the league about how he threw. i don't recall anything abnormal from those days. Then about a year and a half ago there was all the talk about the Nats trying to straighten out his mechanics and he started throwing like a girl.

  6. Mark - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Paul - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    I'm getting a Zim jersey and putting 5-3! above the numbers.

  8. Doc - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    I think that it is mostly mental too. But having experienced the Steve Sax syndrome (frequently described by announcers as having the yips) playing 2nd base briefly in university, I don't think that it's the same thing that Zim in going through.He's coming back from arm surgery, and rehab. The arm is not quite back to its' former physical status. He missed playing the field for a good part of ST, and ST is not that far in the past.Study the tapes and look at arm slot and do some short drills–all of which Zim is probably doing. He is working on it, and doesn't appear to be in denial.Also, the other good news is that Ryan has teammates like Desi and ALR to talk to.

  9. natsfan1a - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Ummm, not that I can throw, mind you, but there are those who can. ;-)Then about a year and a half ago there was all the talk about the Nats trying to straighten out his mechanics and he started throwing like a girl.

  10. Candide - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Also carrying forward:natsfan1a said…Must be kinda hard for Zimm to stay out of his own head with so many others trying to get in there. ("Poke, poke. Everything okay in there? Zimm? Hello?")Maybe it's time for a "Leave Zimm Alone!" video.

  11. BigCat - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Didn't mean to offend anyone with my "girl" statement. You know what I mean though. Throwing awkwardly would be better to say. Or unnaturally. Anyone that has been around baseball sees Zim throw and wonders what happened about a year and a half to two years ago. I wonder if that was originally when he hurt his armMight be time to load up on the cortisone again

  12. nats guy - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    Say after me!! The problem is in the bullpen. Ignore Zimmerman. The problem is in the bullpen. Unless that is fixed it doesn't matter about all the other things.

  13. Whack-a-Mule - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    We mules are not so much phlegmatic as stoic. Having acquired this trait from my first owner, Zeno (of Citium), I advise other Nats-types to adopt a similar approach. We must accept the things which are beyond our control to influence or change. Our 25 men are our 25 men; they are the best we have, the best we are likely to have for quite some time. They are striving, and will continue as best they can to succeed for us and for themselves. All must persevere.

  14. BigCat - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I asked before the season how long do we go with Haren before he is banished to long relief? 2 more starts? 3? I think I would rather see Dukes starting in his place

  15. Doc - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    I'm thinking that Haren will get banished a little farther from the ballpark than long relief—particularly @$13mm.Isn't their a clause in the Player Agreement about a specific date in May, at which point the contract, and player, can be sent on their way???

  16. BigCat - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    Braves are 12-1 with BJ Upton hitting .152, Uggla at .178 and Heyward at.116. Whats gonna happen when they start hitting?

  17. BigCat - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Money is guaranteed I believe. Just load in all in a suitcase in 100 dollar bills and send him on his way

  18. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    I've written 1,000 times here about Yogi Berra's famous quote "Baseball is 90% percent mental and the other 1/2 is physical" and I theorized a couple years ago that Zim's throws seem more mental. His coming forward is a big step and I wish him luck.This also holds true for pitchers. Yesterday's quote about Haren and the other pitcher's rhythm being thrown off is spot on as it affects their "mental" side of the game.Haren was cruising until that error and then a couple of seeing eye hits plus the first run falls in leftfield in front of TyMo that I'm fairly sure Bryce gets to.Just another SNAFU game. You can almost start to make patterns of games with Unearned runs is leading to losses.

  19. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    BigCat said… Money is guaranteed I believe. Just load in all in a suitcase in 100 dollar bills and send him on his way Money is guaranteed. He will get a few more starts before they do anything. Pitching against Miami doesn't really give you a sense of how is outing was as you're facing a team of mostly castoffs. He cruised for 3 innings.Give it a chance to see how it goes.

  20. A DC Wonk - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Braves are 12-1 with BJ Upton hitting .152, Uggla at .178 and Heyward at.116. Whats gonna happen when they start hitting? As has been said before, why do questions like that assume regression to the mean in only one direction.One could just as easily ask:Braves are 12-1, but Juston Upton is slugging .900, and Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson are batting over .400. What's gonna happen when they stop hitting?Or: Paul Moholm, Mike Minor, Craig Kimbrel, Anthony Varvaro, Cory Gearrin, and Luis Ayala have pitched a combined 61.2 innings and have allowed *one* run. (ERA of 0.15) What's gonna happen when they pitch like mere mortals?

  21. natsfan1a - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Thanks, BigCat. I didn't take offense. Just a friendly reminder.BigCat said… Didn't mean to offend anyone with my "girl" statement. You know what I mean though. Throwing awkwardly would be better to say. Or unnaturally. Anyone that has been around baseball sees Zim throw and wonders what happened about a year and a half to two years ago. I wonder if that was originally when he hurt his arm Might be time to load up on the cortisone again April 17, 2013 9:50 AM

  22. #4 - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    I feel for Zim here. Like Doc I went through a Sax-like period in college when I could not throw the ball back to the pitcher from behind the plate. Not fun. I don't think we are there yet with Zim. However, his throwing mechanics are absolutely horrible and until he straightens that out, he will make throwing errors. I don't understand how he and the ball club have let it deteriorate like this. Like pitching and hitting mechanics they must have video they can look at from 2007 or so when he could plant and throw overhand with authority. Right now, he has a serious hitch with his wrist during his arm circle. That causes a motion that is hard to repeat, hence the errors.

  23. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    The Royals got Gattis on an 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. There were a couple of you that questioned Advanced Scouting and pitchers executing a game plan.Jeremy Guthrie pitched Gattis brilliantly and unfortunately was probably concentrating too much on Upton, Gattis, Uggla and Heyward that he served up 2 HRs to Juan Francisco but he pitched Gattis exactly what I said the Advanced Scouting probably showed: Low and away and on the black on the outside and purpose pitch him real inside and if you throw a slider he hasn't shown he can hit it. Guthrie pitched him 6 all low away using his fastball, curve and slider. On a 3-2 pitch he struck him out looking at the slider. Gattis didn't swing at one pitch his entire 1st AB.http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/numlocation.php-pitchSel=425386&game=gid_2013_04_16_kcamlb_atlmlb_1&batterX=11&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3.gifGuthrie K'd Gattis on another 3-2 in his 2nd AB and totally mixed it up where he did purpose pitch him on the 2nd pitch way inside. Got him looking on an outside pitch.http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/numlocation_io.php-pitchSel=425386&game=gid_2013_04_16_kcamlb_atlmlb_1&batterX=30&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3.gifOf course Kelvin Herrera gave away the game when he came in relief with 4 runs in 2/3 of an inning on 3 HRs.

  24. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    On Chris Johnson, I think the Braves stole him when they included him in the trade with Arizona. I think he will be a solid starter for them. Not everyone has to be a superstar and his hot start has helped them to where they are.It takes a full team determined to win and when some are slumping they better be contributing in other ways and all those slumping players that BigCat mentioned are contributing in other ways. For those who point out that Heyward is hitting (near .100) he still hustles on the basepaths and turning some excellent plays in the field.Their team has a winning attitude.

  25. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    I suggest you listen to Holden/Danny at 11:30. They say they will be asking Rizzo about RZim's yips.http://betaplayer.radio.com/player/1067-the-fan/

  26. Mr Baseball - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Zim's throwing is not mental, it is physical! He is throwing the same way over handed as he does under handed (palm and fingers under the ball). When you throw over handed and the ball is in the cock position the palm and fingers need to be on top and ball facing back. Also, you don't rotate your hand, you keep it still and when the chest opens your hand rotates. (Tip from a pitching coach of 40 years). Simple and why can't the experts (Coaches) see this problem?

  27. Doc - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Ghost, me too when I watched that first or second hit off of Haren after Zim's error.My initial raction was that Harps might have caught the ball that TyMo couldn't reach. When it's all said and done, winning baseball depends on a lot of small stuff.

  28. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    #4, if they can convince Zim that his issues are mechanical and he can get beyond the yips, then the situation may improve but right now he's a mess. His comfort zone is charging balls and throwing that sidearm/submariner throw.When he gets a routine play, he's crow hopping 2 to 3 times before he releases and I know I'm holding my breath. It's painful to watch and it's painful because I feel for Ryan as a person. With each injury it has played into his head. I've also felt he hasn't been totally forthcoming since 2007 with his myriad of injuries.Now the Nats are attached to him long-term. I think the better solution is hypnotism and sports psychiatrist. I'd be surprised if they hadn't done this in the past. Again, this problem has been brewing for years.

  29. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Doc said… Ghost, me too when I watched that first or second hit off of Haren after Zim's error.My initial raction was that Harps might have caught the ball that TyMo couldn't reach. When it's all said and done, winning baseball depends on a lot of small stuff. I'd almost say with 90% certainly Bryce catches that ball easily. It's not TyMo's fault, he's not a natural left-fielder.

  30. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    Add me to the list that feels Harp gets to that ball that Tyler let drop. And no knock on Tyler but that's the trade off with him. Hope for more offense than the defensive shortcomings.I've been a proponent of Zim's problems being mental initially, and then compounded by injury. This goes nack to 2007 when it started cropping up in Spring Training and carried over to the regular season.

  31. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    NatsJack, we better watch out for agreeing so much!

  32. Lipty P - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    What a horrific offseason by Rizzo

  33. Alphabet Soup Erik - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    He has already cost the Nats 3 games this year. I feel like I am watching Shaq shoot free throws. They can't afford to give games away. This problem has existed for far too long now, and something needs to be done. Not sure what, but something. This mental block is not going away. It took 93 wins to make the playoffs in the AL last year, and that could easily be the case this year in the NL. On another note, Rizzo has really made a mess of last year's team. $13 million for Dan Haren, but couldn't keep any of the 3 lefties in the bullpen. He has now paid Yunesky Maya, Chien Ming Wang, Edwin Jackson and now Haren some $35-40 million to replace John Lannan (who is better than all of them combined). Also, trading Morse will go down as one of the worst trades in baseball over the last few years. Having some idealistic version of a baseball team, and stubbornly sticking to that, doesn't make him a great GM. Sorry, it doesn't.

  34. Joe Hardy - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    Back in the '90s, I remember John Smoltz went through some pitching issues that were described as "mental". It was reported that he went to a sports psychologist. Do players still do that today?

  35. Ghost Of Steve M. - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Alphabet Soup Erik said… On another note, Rizzo has really made a mess of last year's team. $13 million for Dan Haren, but couldn't keep any of the 3 lefties in the bullpen. He has now paid Yunesky Maya, Chien Ming Wang, Edwin Jackson and now Haren some $35-40 million to replace John Lannan (who is better than all of them combined).I've spoken my mind on this for 3 seasons now on what John Lannan really is and that's a serviceable back of the rotation pitcher.Peric will disagree with you and I and use his SABR hand-picked stats and WHIP while ignoring his median ERA. Lannan if you look at what he has done is that he puts his team almost every start in a position to win. Its not pretty, its not sexy, it doesn't sell extra tix to watch him pitch, but he is a very able #5 that will pitch like a #4 most of the season.I'm so tired of hearing about Velo. The Nats got schooled by 2 pitchers over the weekend (Hudson & Maholm) that pitch slower than Lannan.

  36. A DC Wonk - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Awesome. We have some folks here who are positive that it's physical, and some that are positive that it's mental.

  37. JD - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Zim has been painful to watch but to say that he has caused the team 3 games is pure BS. There is no rule that says a pitcher has to implode after an error which after all only put one man on base. The ball that fell in front of TyMo is in Harper's back pocket; no question. Having said that a veteran like Haren can't hang a splitter to a mediocre hitter like Hetcheveria. Carpenter said last night that Stammen at least stopped the bleeding and I think someone here also noted that he and Matheus did all right. Stammen came in with the bases loaded and gave up a double to the 1st hitter; that's not stopping the bleeding that's pouring gasoline on the fire. Not a single one of our relievers has pitched above a failing grade; we like to pick on Henry but he has not been the worst of the bunch this year.

  38. JaneB - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    I agree with JD. Pitcher meltdowns aren't Zimm's fault. ANd Henry has looked PFB compared to many of his colleagues.

  39. Kiterp - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    This is simple science. He got married in the offseason. He’s in a honeymoon slump. Look at Ovechkin. Got married in the offseason. Went through his honeymoon slump. New wife finally kicked him in the butt, and he’s now leading his team and the league in goals. And the list of past stars goes on … Carmelo, Tony Romo, Agassi. Give RZ time … he’ll shake off the honeymoon slump and be better than ever

  40. Section 222 - Apr 17, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    A few days ago I said that the first step in solving the problem was admitting there is a problem. Zim he has now done that. Hopefully he can now solve it. It seems like the Nats announcers and writers have come around as well. Maybe they'll stop with the head in the sand happy talk like Johnny Holiday saying the other night that criticism of Zim was misplaced because "he's a gold glove third baseman for crying out loud." I think you can fairly say that his errors cost us two games — Friday's (when the tying and go ahead runs scored on his error) and Saturday's (when he failed to get an easy third out in the inning and the very next batter hit the game winning homerun), but it's a bit of a stretch to say he cost us last night's game.

  41. Rabbit34 - Apr 17, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    It may be time for Zim to get to Syracuse to practice different throwing motions, let 'er rip, build confidence, and get back up here. That would be a tough pill to swallow but it would be best for the team. What do you think, Zim??

  42. Doc - Apr 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    Correctomundo, GhostMeister!Velo is #4 on the pitchometer, and Location is #1.It's nice to have velo going for you, but that doesn't always happen–just ask Greg, Warren (that'll be have to be done in seance format with Warren, since Spahnie is no longer with us), and a few other guys who won over 300 games. My guy Gio gave up 7 big ones recently, because of Location, not velo.

  43. mick - Apr 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    Hi #4, good to see again this season. I understand Coach Buddy is hanging in OK. I fail to see what Zim has to do with Haren gang? I really do not have an issue with Ryan. He will come around by himself or with cortisone. If its with cortisone then clearly the medical staff better examine and treat Ryan in future seasons

  44. Section 109 DC - Apr 17, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    LOL Kiterp, but I believe Ovechkin is engaged, not married. I really feel for Zim and think Ian is a terrific teammate–I agree, thank you Mark for quoting him at length. Whatever is standing in Zim's way–mental problem or physical–I hope it's the easier one to fix. DC Wonk @ 10:13, thanks very much for your perspective. I will add that the Rays, who got so much praise in SI's baseball issue, stand now at 4-9. It's just April 17.

  45. mick - Apr 17, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    I see only 3 do-overs1) Should have kept Morse2) Should not have signed Haren3) Should have kept LannanI like Span and think he was a great pickup. I agree with resigning ALR. I agree with sticking with Henry until at least June. I understand not keeping Burnett, I never was a big fan of him

  46. Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa - Apr 17, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    "Awesome. We have some folks here who are positive that it's physical, and some that are positive that it's mental."But that IS awesome. If we all agreed, nobody would be right. What's the old line? "It's a shame all the people who really know how to run the country are too busy cutting hair and driving cabs."

  47. natsfan1a - Apr 17, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Speaking of old lines: Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.

  48. natsfan1a - Apr 17, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Also, 4) Woulda, coulda, shoulda. :-)

  49. JD - Apr 17, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    Ghost, Nothing to do with velocity but you can't seriously argue that Lannan is even in Haren's class. can you? Haren averages about 5 WAR a year for a span of about 6 years. Lannan's best year in 2011 was 1.1. I wouldn't give up on Haren just yet and I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that Haren will out pitch Lannan by a wide margin by the time the year is done.

  50. Don - Apr 17, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Davey was on 106.7 this morning and discussed Zims throwing issues. He said it all comes down to getting used to throwing in his normal arm slot again. He has been injured for a while and has had to compensate and he still is not 100%. Zim has been working on infield throwing drills and has been working with the Nats trainer on throwing techniques. Davey expects him to be back to the good old Zim around June.

  51. Doc - Apr 17, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Thanks Don!Amen Davey, that sums up my own humble opinion on the matter. Injury, rehab, arm slot, and drills. Hope June isn't too late????

  52. Don - Apr 17, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    I think that we need to be more honest here. Zim is broken. He cannot throw. Zim is not making great throws on hard plays and having problems with easy ones. He's not doing fine one night and then having probems the next. He's not throwing the ball well at all from any angle. He does better underhand or sidearm on the run, but he simply cannot/will not throw the ball overhand. Not between innings getting warmed up, not during games, not ever. And he has yet to plant and fire a really hard throw from any angle this season. He had throwing problems well before the shoulder injury and things have gotten steadily worse over a period of a couple of years now. The Nats need to address this situation in a very serious way — not just a "we'll keep trotting him out there until he figures it out, he's too talented not to get right" approach. Knoblaugh was "the Fundamentally Sound" Chuck until he just wasn't.dfh21 (the other Don)

  53. JayB - Apr 17, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    This is an interesting discussion. Many of us have seen just about every game and and like 95% of Zimm innings since 2006. I completely agree with Njack….it is not a new problem….not even close to new. It has just gotten more and more into his head that I am worried he is done as a reliable 3B let alone gold glover. The more time he has the worse the throw. This is not an injury issue and never was…it is going towards Steve Sax or Check Knobloch issue.Sad.

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