Diamond Duels: Alex Rodriguez vs. Ryan Zimmerman
by Tim Heaney and Keith Hernandez
on February 23, 2011 @ 03:04:59
Rodriguez's fantasy baseball player profile
- Ryan Zimmerman is no slouch, but he has topped 30 homers just once. This writer's client did it in 2010 for the 15th consecutive year - and 30 dingers and 100 RBIs in 13 straight. Detractors point to Rodriguez's grounder increase last year as a sign of impending doom; well, he also posted his highest fly-ball rate since '07, his last AL MVP season. Sure, A-Rod is still a decent bet to play fewer than 150 games, but in his favorable setting, his seasons rival or top Zimmerman in fewer at-bats.
A-Bombs for A-Rod
- Oh yeah, that favorable setting: His launching pad of a home park, where he abuses all fields, isn't the less appealing Nationals Park. Plus, a Derek Jeter-Nick Swisher-Mark Teixeira opening lineup act sounds much better than ... something resembling Nyjer Morgan-Ian Desmond. Jayson Werth's arrival should boost Zimmerman's run total, but Rodriguez's Evil Empire strangles Zimmerman's droids.
- Zimmerman's lofty .334 BABIP and moderate 17.6 percent liner rate (his second straight year of decline) don't jive, so what many consider Zimmerman's biggest advantage isn't overwhelming. Even in his stalled 2010, Rodriguez posted his career-best contact percentage and his lowest K percentage in more than 10 years. His batting average is in position to rebound.
- Rodriguez has trimmed down this spring, losing 10 pounds and 3 percent body fat. Dismissing some form of decline for someone who'll turn 36 in July isn't wise, and those "Best Shape of My Life" stories often blind some. On the other hand, this isn't ignorable news, especially since his surgically repaired hip was also given a clean bill.
- A sprightlier Rodriguez should regain some stolen bases, further delay a post-steroids drop-off and, more importantly, have a better shot at avoiding the bodily dings that likely embellished his grounder total last year. More health, more lift. Exhibit A-Rod: After he returned from a DL stint for a calf strain, he ran off a .295-9-28 September.
Closing argument: Both options would do as a foundation, but netting the selection with a bigger power foundation is essential. The vet has the advantage over the up-and-comer. Consider A-Rod's latest celeb squeeze, Cameron Diaz. She's slightly overrated and has taken a sharp turn down Skeletor Lane since "The Mask," but knowing her track record, would you say no? She's reliably attractive and still has many of the bombshell factors that keep her near the top of the hot corner food chain. So does Rodriguez, whose hip and popcorn are ready.
Zimmerman's fantasy baseball player profile
Zimmerman is one of the few sluggers who has the ability to reach the 30-homer mark while also maintaining a batting average that will hover near .300. He has made significant improvements in his batting eye in the past three seasons: He went from a 6.7 percent BB rate in 2008 to 11.4 percent last year. With this kind of plate discipline, Zimmerman is a good bet to hit close to .300 again this year. A high BABIP (.334) last year helped his career-best .307 AVG, but a reduced hit rate won't drastically affect his chances at a high - or at least helpful - average.
Zimmerman The Man?
- Despite Zimm's drop in dingers last year (25), a small increase in grounders and an at-bat drop thanks to nagging injuries were the only differences between last year and his 2009 season of 33 jacks; his fly-ball percentage in those years was nearly identical.
- Don't forget that Zimmerman is only 26 years of age, and his five years in the bigs have shown positive trends as he enters prime time for power growth. With Alex Rodriguez being 10 years older, youth is a huge advantage in Zimmerman's favor. The fact he sustained the growth from '09 in fly balls and slugging percentage indicates that more power could be on the way. The power upside is definitely there, which is obviously not something you can say about Rodriguez.
- Neither Zimmerman nor Rodriguez has been a perfect picture of health over the years, but A-Rod is easily more of a health risk because of the age factor. From 2008-10, Rodriguez spent time each year on the DL - the big one being the hip surgery that robbed him of 42 days in '09. Last year, he struggled through calf and groin maladies. Bottom line: A-Rod's health is in decline, and his numbers are in jeopardy as a result. It could be a result of his post-steroid use or age, or a combination of both.
- Speaking of decline, Rodriguez's indicators took a big hit last year, most notably his GB percentage; it rose from 42.3 percent in '09 to 46.0 percent last year. His line drives also fell from 20.0 percent in '09 to 13.8 percent last year. Shaky BB/K ratios do not bode well for his plate approach moving forward. Consecutive drops in OPS in the last three seasons, from .965 to .847, also show that his power is fading. His plummeting slugging percentage is also shocking: It went from .645 in '08 to .506 last year.
Closing argument: Zimmerman and Rodriguez are moving in opposite directions. Sure, Rodriguez was one of game's all-time greats in terms of all-around talent and still is a top 3B target in the early stages of drafts, but the years of 40-plus homers, 120-plus RBIs and a BA over .300 are gone for him. Zimmerman, on the other hand, is nearing his prime, and the upside is tantalizing; he's already an elite 3B and is only 26! The Nats' third sacker gives you a more comforting line: a high BA, 30-plus homer potential and solid RBI totals. Rodriguez's RBI opportunities remain high in the Bronx, but the popcorn-fed 3B is no longer a lock.
KFFL staff verdict
Fantasy Baseball Diamond Duels
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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