Zimmerman dismissive of advanced stats' role in hot start
The main detractors of advanced metrics in baseball cite the merits of the intangibles - a loaded term that includes, but is not limited to, what a teammate brings to the locker room or clubhouse chemistry.
When the Washington Nationals signed Daniel Murphy to a three-year contract worth $37.5 million following a breakout 2015 postseason, they not only bet correctly on performance, they signed a student of the game.
"If I can take the already elite skill of bat-to-ball and exit velocity off the barrel, but get it at the right angle ... now we're really starting to do some serious damage," Murphy theorized to Jamal Collier of MLB.com during spring training.
Murphy, who has slashed .340/.389/.581 since joining the Nationals, decided to impart some of this wisdom with teammate Ryan Zimmerman prior to the season, and it's paid off.
Zimmerman has gone from being one of the worst hitters in all of baseball last season, to among the top of the league in 2017 - one of just four hitters with a wRC+ still over 200. But Zimmerman isn't willing to attribute this turnaround to fancy launch angles from Statcast.
"I'm not saying it doesn't work for other people," Zimmerman told Eddie Matz of ESPN before reaching into his "Bull Durham" slogan handbook. "I think I just go up there and try to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it."
To his credit, the Nationals first baseman wasn't entirely dismissive of the role of advanced metrics on his blisteringly-hot 2017 campaign.
"All offseason, I worked on hitting the ball one-eighth of an inch lower and it's totally paying off," Zimmerman acknowledged.
Regarding launch angles and following Murphy's lead about elevating the ball more, Zimmerman was less committal.
"I'm just going to play along with it from now on," the 32-year-old said. "Thinking about that stuff, that doesn't work for me."
Instead, Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu prefers attributing Zimmerman's success to his health.
"This launch-angle stuff is all B.S.," Schu said. "This is the strongest I've ever seen him."
It's a strange juxtaposition that Zimmerman will openly admit the new approach of hitting the ball at a lower spot - something that would naturally lift the ball more - but not acknowledge the role of launch angle. It seems to be another example of a player's reflexive hesitance to the new schools of thought.
However, by Zimmerman's own admission, different players can have myriad approaches or mindsets and still get positive results.
"I think that's the beautiful thing about baseball - there's not one right way to do things."
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