Is Zimmerman more injury-prone than others?

Is Zimmerman more injury-prone than others?
October 26, 2012, 9:00 am
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The news yesterday that Ryan Zimmerman had arthroscopic surgery to repair the right shoulder sprain that hampered him all season didn't come as much of a surprise. All along, Zimmerman and the Nationals knew offseason surgery was probable.

But it did raise a question that has been posed a few times over the years: Is Zimmerman injury-prone, and is that a concern for the Nationals considering they've got him under contract for seven more seasons and more than $100 million?

To be sure, Zimmerman has dealt with his share of injuries since he was drafted by the Nationals in 2005.

-- He broke the hamate bone in his left wrist following the 2007 season and required surgery to remove it.

-- He spent two months on the disabled list in 2008 with a tear in his left shoulder.

-- A couple of nagging injuries cost him 20 total games in 2010.

-- An abdominal tear in 2011 required surgery and cost him three months.

-- And, of course, there was the sprained AC joint in Zimmerman's right shoulder that plagued him throughout this season.

On the surface, that sounds like a lot, and perhaps cause for concern. But nearly every major-league ballplayer not named Cal Ripken Jr. or Livan Hernandez is going to be sidelined with injuries at some point in his career.

The question is whether Zimmerman is sidelined more than others, particularly those who play his same position.

A more detailed examination of that suggests Zimmerman doesn't appear to be any more injury-prone than most big-league third basemen and has kept himself on the field as much as almost any of his contemporaries.

Since he became a full-time major leaguer at the start of the 2006 season, Zimmerman has played in more games (970) than all but two fellow third basemen: David Wright (1,033) and Adrian Beltre (993).

Of course, plenty of other third basemen in the game today haven't been around as long as Zimmerman, Wright and Beltre. So a more apt exercise would be to compare the average number of games played per season among third basemen.

In that regard, Zimmerman still stacks up well. Among active third basemen who have held down regular jobs for at least three years, Wright leads the way with an average of 149 games per season in his career. Chase Headley (148), Beltre (146), Mark Reynolds (142) and Alberto Callaspo (142) rank second through fifth.

Next up on the list: Zimmerman, whose average of 139 games played during his career is equal to Aramis Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.

Third basemen who have averaged fewer games per season than Zimmerman: Chipper Jones (138), Pablo Sandoval (132), Chone Figgins (129), Evan Longoria (127), Scott Rolen (125) and Placido Polanco (115).

So, what's the final verdict? Is Zimmerman injury-prone? It doesn't appear he is any more than the typical big-league third baseman. That doesn't mean he might suffer more debilitating injuries over the rest of his career, and perhaps the long-suggested thought of a switch to first base could become reality at some point down the road.

But at this stage, Zimmerman has managed to keep himself on the field commensurate with most third basemen. And we've certainly seen how good of a ballplayer he is when he's been on the field.