By Zev Feder
Some baseball fans may have noticed that during this season Ryan Zimmerman has significantly improved his defense as a
result of an adjustment he made to his throwing technique. Here is how that came about. In April of this year Zimmerman tore his abdominal oblique muscle, which was repaired surgically and required a two-month period of rehabilitation before he could return to the Nats lineup. In order to alleviate stress on the muscle and prevent reinjury, he altered the throwing technique that he used during routine third-to-first plays. Prior to the surgery Zimmerman frequently threw with a sidearm motion. Occasionally, but too regularly, his throw would draw the first baseman off the bag, either towards home plate or the other way towards right field. This was because, when you throw sidearm, releasing the ball too early will send the throw to the right of your intended target, while holding onto the
ball a little too long will force the throw over to the left. That became a chronic problem that proved difficult to overcome.
However, switching to an overhand throwing motion, as a result of the rehabilitation process, not only was easier on the repaired muscle but has also solved the throwing inconsistency. That is because the directional variability in an overhand throw as a result of release point location is vertical rather than horizontal, affecting the height of
the throw rather than a left/right error. Zimmerman also has a non-traditional preference for catching grounders to the side rather than, when possible, attempting to get centered in front of the ball. And he uses a glove technique
to his side of dropping the glove to ground level and raising it to adjust to the hop. When this works, the play looks real sharp. But I think staying down in front of the ball, or moving the glove directly to the side to stab a grounder hit there, as other gold-glovers as well as amateurs have done for decades, would plug what may be the only other hole in his defense and complement the acrobatic plays that he thrills us with regularly.
How can an amateur coach think he can tell an amazing third-baseman like Ryan Zimmerman how to eliminate a weakness? Well, it is what it is. On behalf of our entire neighborhood, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Nationals for all they have done this past season and year within the community.