ZIMMERMAN, UGGLA, TO BATTLE IT OUT FOR ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR AWARD
[September 21st] -- I didn't need a sheet of paper to write down all of the Nationals' highlights from last night's game; the back-side of a used 3x5 card would have done just as nicely. In fact, Ryan Zimmerman was the only highlight.
Zimmerman hit his 19th home run of the year and drove in his 99th run, numbers that continue to keep him in the hunt for the National League rookie-of-the-year award. He's had a superb freshman season. He'll be only the 4th N.L. rookie to drive in 100 runs in the last two decades, and if he doesn't win the award, he'll be only the second 100 RBI rookie not to win it in many years.
Will he win the award?
As I watched Zim circle the bases after hitting his line-drive homer, I got to thinking about who his competition is and how they are doing compared to Ryan. Although there are many players with stats good enough to warrant consideration for the award, I think it's going to be either Zimmerman or Marlins' second baseman Dan Uggla who will walk away with the hardware. So which player is better? It's hard to say -- it's the old "apples and oranges" comparison.
Ryan Zimmerman is a 21 year old rookie. Uggla, 26, has four years of minor league experience. Although Uggla produced solid offensive numbers in the minors, he never showed the Diamondbacks enough to get above the 'AA' level. Even though he hit .297-21-87 in 2005, Arizona left him unprotected and was claimed by the Marlins in the Rule V draft.
Look at the comparison between the two players.
There are a few differences, but none of any real consequence. But check out the double and home run categories. Uggla has hit 26 doubles and 26 homers, Zimmerman 42 and 19. Uggla, five years older than Zimmerman, has a more mature body and has learned how to hit with home run power. Zimmerman has seven fewer homers but has hit sixteen more doubles. In time, ten or twelve of those doubles will turn into home runs as his body matures. Offensively then, the only real difference is the age of Dan Uggla.
Defensively, Ryan Zimmerman is already one of the best 3rd baseman in the league. His 14 errors are the second lowest in the National League, and is a mainstay on ESPN's "webgems." Uggla, however, is considered an "average" second baseman. Marlins coach Perry Hill said that Uggla had poor footwork and a mediocre arm when he reported to spring training (though he now says that Uggla has improved throughout the year). Uggla has committed 18 errors, second highest in the National League for second baseman.
So, who is the National League rookie-of-the-year for 2006? I think it's Zimmerman, but Uggla has a good chance to win the award. Uggla is on a team that has received a lot of ink this year between the Marlins' amazing record and Joe Giardi's problems with management. Zimmerman is on a moribund team that hasn't gotten any national ink since June. Also, Uggla is a power hitter playing a position not known for power. Zimmerman's home run total is below average for a 3rd baseman, and his defensive abilities won't sway many voters.
While Uggla may win the award, his future is not nearly as bright as Zimmerman's. The Marlins' infielder has a career capped at 10-12 more years because of his age. Ryan could easily play beyond 2020. And Zimmerman, only 21, will only get better with time. In five years (when he's Uggla's age), Zim will probably produce 300-35-110 type numbers while Uggla is today about as good as he's going to get.
It took Uggla 2500 at-bats and the Rule V draft to make it to the major leagues (if you could call the Marlins a major league team last spring). It took Zimmerman 250 at-bats. Ryan was expected to be a star; no one expected anything of Uggla. Though Uggla may become rookie-of-the-year, Zimmerman will have the longer, and better career.
Going into the 2005 season, only three National League rookies have hit more than 20 homers and driven in more than 75 RBI's in the last 40 years -- Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda and Albert Pujols. Make that five with the addition of Uggla and Zimmerman. Now that's pretty good company.
Between Uggla and Zimmerman, I like Zimmerman better, but if Uggla can reach 30 HRs I think he's a lock.
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