Are the Nats Showing Signs of Improvement?

Well, the Nats fell one game short of a sweep of the Diamondbacks this week, and posted a come-from-behind win against the Dodgers in their first game after Major League Baseball served Many Ramirez with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Jordan Zimmermann had a rough start, giving up 6 runs in the first inning, but the Nats showed some tenacity, fighting back and taking the game 11-9. Over the weekend, John Lannan posted a strong outing, and the bats of Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham gave the Nats two consecutive win over a team exhibiting many of the same traits as the Nats: a fairly potent offense, hit-or-miss starting pitching, and absolutely atrocious relievers.

By far and away the biggest story regarding the Nationals has been Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman came into tonight's game against the Giants with a 28-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this year. He rose to the occasion once again tonight, grabbbing a single off Randy Johnson in the top of the first. He also helped cement the Nats' Saturday win against the D-Backs.

As I have said in previous blogs, I've never been high on the Ryan Zimmerman bandwagon. Sure, he has put up admirable stats at a young age, and has had a few memorable walk-offs, including a 2006 home run against the Yankees, and the game-winner in last season's opener at Nationals Park. But his defense has been up-and-down, and he never seemed to regain his form after missing a chunk of games last season with a shoulder injury. Well, whatever he is doing this season is working, and its working well. I had feared that Zimmerman would have a few strong and productive seasons, and then regress to the level of a Scott Rolen or Troy Glaus-type player. However, it seems he is maturing as a hitter, and hopefully this will only improve as he approaches his prime hitting years in his late 20's.

I encourage the baseball fans out there to consider punching Zimmerman in your 2009 All-Star ballots. He is putting up better numbers than fan favorites such as Chipper Jones and David Wright, and will hopefully continue to do so as we approach the mid-summer classic. I have a feeling Zimmerman will earn a selection to his first all-star game regardless of the results of the fan vote, but seeing him getting in as a starter would certainly be significant for those Nats fans who are looking for some encouragement.

The Nats wrap up their west coast trip and return home for a lengthy homestand opening up this weekend against the Phillies.

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