Clone Wars: Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria

While Evan Longoria was only drafted one year after Ryan Zimmerman he has spent a few extra years in the minors. Zimmerman has three extra seasons in the majors and 1,447 more plate appearances. That makes it so much more interesting that the two posted such similar lines in 2009. Then when we look even deeper they match in plenty of their underlying numbers. They might be the ultimate version of 2009 Clones.

Name                      R    HR   RBI   SB   AVG     OBP    SLG    BB%      K%
Ryan Zimmerman            110  33   106    2   .292   .364   .525    10.6%   19.5%
Evan Longoria             100  33   113    9   .281   .364   .526    11.0%   24.0%

Ryan Zimmerman

image
MLB: SEP 30 Mets at Nationals
30 September 2009: Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in action against the New York Mets at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. The Nationals rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning on a Justin Maxwell walk-off Grand Slam to win 7-4 and sweep the Mets in the three-game series capping the Nationals’ 2009 home season.(Icon/SMI)

There were some doubts about Zimmerman after the torn labrum last season, but he came back even better than before. His SLG jumped more than 50 points from his best full season and his eye had improved with his best ever walk rate. He did have Adam Dunn behind him this year, which had to help him get some better pitches, but that doesn’t really explain the better walk rate.

This year Zimmerman has cut down on his swing percentage going from a 43+% swing rate in his career to only 39% this year. This was beneficial in his swings out of the zone dropping to 21 percent. It will be interesting to see what he does with this going forward as the drop in swings has not improved his contact. His contact rate on pitches in the zone dropped to a career low of 87.1 percent.

He still has time to grow in his power, but a word of caution for his 33 homers this year is his 14 “just enough” homers according to HitTrackeronline. That is a 42 percent rate, which is far above the league average and a sign he could regress in 2010, but don’t rule out his power growing as he ages toward his prime years.

Evan Longoria

Did the Tampa Bay Rays make the right or wrong choice by holding Longoria back longer then Washington did with Zimmerman? Probably not since he was a big contributor in their World Series appearance of 2008, but even if he had not signed such a team-friendly deal he would have had more of his prime years covered by arbitration.

Longoria had a few extra homers from last year, but that was with 35 extra games this season. Most of his numbers are very similar to last year, but with the added games played to increase the totals. The one number that took a step forward was his walk rate going from 9.3 percent last year to 11 percent. His OBP responded by going from .343 to a much improved .364.

His speed has continued to surprise as he only totaled eight steals in 205 minor league games. Now he has totaled more steals in 2009 then all his time in the minors. This would lead me to expect him to stay at or below this number, but with him yet to get caught stealing, either, I see no reason to slow him down.

Conclusion

You could call these players even in 2009 as they matched most stats, but Longoria had a few more steals and Zimmerman had a better batting average. They still have plenty of years before they even hit their prime, but I think Longoria has the track record to support the power numbers going forward. If these two are of similar value in your league then go with Longoria first with Zimmerman being a solid second choice. I don’t think you can go wrong with either one, but would go with the one who has done this before.

This is not related to fantasy, but the elite defense of these two players has been amazing as well. They both totaled UZR/150 over 19 and that helped them match each other in WAR at 7.1 and 7.2. They really are clones this season. Perhaps only their contracts split them as Longoria has an extremely team-friendly deal with options out till 2015.

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