Levi Tamosaitis: The Case for Ryan Zimmerman and the Hall of Fame

This article is by guest writer Levi Tamosaitis

With the Nationals winning the 2019 World Series, in what feels like forever ago, it only feels right to discuss whether Ryan Zimmerman (aka “Mr. National”) belongs in the Hall of Fame. As the face of the Nationals franchise who has now spent fifteen years with the Nationals at the major league level, it only seems right to see how he stacks up in comparison to the best to ever play the game of baseball.

Let’s start with the case against Zimmerman. His career WAR is only 38.5. The average WAR for a Hall of Famer is 69, and this ties him for 361st all-time among position players. To put it in perspective, Russell Martin has a career WAR of 38.7. Other basic stats like OPS+ (116) and Batting Average (.279) place Zimmerman tied for 493rd and tied for 684th, respectively. In 2019, the league average for OPS+ was 96 and for Batting Average was .252. Not only are Zimmerman’s numbers not of the Hall of Fame-caliber, but they would only be above league average in today’s game. 

Add on top of some of these less-than-impressive stats (by Hall of Fame standards, of course) the fact that he has only appeared in 2 All-Star games, has never finished higher than 16th in MVP voting, and has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career (only started more than 110 games 7 times in his career), the case against Zimmerman appears quite obvious.

Now, you might ask yourself, what is the case for Zimmerman? The former first overall draft pick is tied for 7th all-time with 11 walk-off home runs. Those ahead of him are Jim Thome, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, and Frank Robinson. I am going to go out on a limb and say that’s pretty good company. How much are the walk-offs worth, in terms of making the Hall of Fame? Probably very little, but his ability to win the game with one swing of the bat, when his team needs him most, could hold some value in the mind of a voter. That is, the voters who’s perspective on the game tends to align itself with what we define as “old fashion” in the game of baseball. As voter’s mindsets have evolved in recent history to now reject unjustified metrics and accept the new and more accurate numbers that have been introduced to the game, a metric like career walk-offs holds little to no value.

Also, Zimmerman was the very first draft pick ever by the Nationals. His leadership over the past 15 years for the organization has, no doubt, played a role in turning around a franchise with multiple 100-loss season’s to now World Series champions. Although not able to be measured statistically, his leadership and professionalism have no doubt been crucial to turning around the Nationals’ franchise. 

Based upon the minimal argument for his Hall of Fame candidacy, I do not think he should be in the Hall of Fame. As great of a clutch hitter and the leader that he is, the numbers don’t lie. If he did somehow make the Hall of Fame, he would be near the bottom of most statistical categories, and his inability to stay healthy along with his lack of awards does not help the cause.

Ryan Zimmerman’s career is still one that he can hang his hat on. As his career soon comes to an end, he has meant so much to the National’s organization. That’s a value that you just simply can’t put a number on. As I’ve said, he’s been with the Nationals through thick and thin and has helped to build that organization into a World Series champion. Zimmerman may never walk the halls of Cooperstown but he means the world to the city of D.C. which is some way, is just as important.