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Ranking Ryan Zimmerman's Walk-off Homeruns


In terms of pure, unfettered joy, there is nothing like winning on a walk-off. And in that subset of events, there is absolutely nothing like a walk-off homerun. It is simple, actually; a walk-off dinger means that the home team wins, many times in extra-innings, and that the guy who hit the blast can take his sweet time rounding the bases, waiting for his teammates to mob him at the plate. That is followed by a nice interview (usually conducted by a pretty reporter), and being either hit on the face with a pie/shaving cream, or getting a nice Gatorade bath. If baseball takes itself too seriously and celebrations are discouraged, at least we can point to walk-offs to remind us that baseball is actually fun.

Speaking of fun, here is a fun fact for you: Ryan Zimmerman just hit his 10th career walk-off homerun. That may not seem like much, but consider this: the major league record is just 13, held by Jim Thome. Also we can consider that most of the leaderboard is formed by legendary players who had a long track record of homer-happy ways. If we take a look at the NL leaderboard exclusively, you will see that Zimmerman stands out for a weird reason.

NL WALK-OFF HOMERUN CAREER LEADERBOARD

Player

Career HR

Career Walk-off HR

Walk-off %

Stan Musial

475

12

2.52%

Tony Perez

379

11

2.90%

Albert Pujols

527

10

1.90%

Barry Bonds

762

10

1.31%

Mike Schmidt

548

10

1.82%

Ryan Zimmerman

189

10

5.29%

It can all be a fluke, or a product of perfect timing and opportunities, but we can't deny it is still awesome. Remember that Zimmerman was the face of the Nationals franchise before it became cool to have such a distinction. As the 4th overall pick on the 2005 draft, he has helped the team transition from its post-Montreal origins to the powerhouse it is today. Since making his debut that very same year in a brief 20-PA September call-up, he has been the most decorated National, and one of the most underrated players in the league.

Despite the wide array of injuries that have plagued him, and then forced him to move to first base on a permanent basis, Zimmerman has been baseball's 21st-most productive hitter in terms of WAR since his first full season in 2006. He is still a manageable 30 years old, so we can hope that he wins something meaningful for Washington eventually. For now, he can point out that at least he has given the home crowd its share of exhilarating moments and thrilling finishes.

To wit, today we take a look at Zimmerman's 10 career walk-off dingers, and rank them according to their level of difficulty, the relevance of the game, and their aesthetic appeal. Plenty of video evidence available, thanks to MLB's awesome video vault. If he is destined to take the record all by himself, this post will look even greater in a few years.

#10 - July 26, 2013 – Solo vs LaTroy Hawkins

Hawkins has allowed his share of dingers through the years, and currently sits at 1.0 per 9 innings over his career. So when you fall to a 3-1 count versus Zimmerman, you risk serving up a long ball. This was the second game of a doubleheader, and the then-third baseman allowed everyone to go to sleep earlier by launching a line drive homer. Bonus points: the homerun ball was caught by a guy wearing a Ryan Zimmerman t-shirt on the bleachers.

#9 - July 6, 2010 – Solo vs Luke Gregerson

Quietly, Luke Gregerson has been one of the best relievers over the past half-decade, but even then he has been a bit homer-prone. In a game in which the Nats squandered a 3-run lead in the eighth, Zimmerman finished off a monster game in which he had already homered and doubled. His moon shot to straight center field was impressive, as was his .496 win probability added for that game.

# 8 - September 6, 2009 – 2-Run vs Juan Carlos Oviedo (Leo Nuñez)

In what is becoming a trait in this list, a Nationals reliever is indirectly responsible for Zimmerman's success, as this time closer Mike MacDougal allowed two runs in the ninth to allow closer Oviedo to enter the game for the save. The pitcher then known as Leo Nuñez promptly allowed a homer to Willie Harris (he of 39 homers over 12 years), followed by a Christian Guzman single. That set the table for Zimmerman, who launched a 1-1 fastball deep to left field. Bonus points for Zimmerman's stare down of Nuñez as the ball flew to left.

#7 - June 18, 2006 – 2-Run vs Chien Ming Wang

It´s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Chien-Ming Wang was one of the best pitchers in the AL. To wit, that season saw him finish second in the Cy Young voting. And yet he couldn't escape Zimmerman's magic in what was his first-ever career walk-off, and only his 10th homer. With the Nationals trailing 2-1 with 1 out in the ninth, Zimmerman had a man on first as Wang was trying to complete the game. Still at old RFK Stadium, Zim jumped on the first pitch and hit it straight to left field, in what became one of the defining moments of his rookie season.

#6 - May 19, 2015 – 2-Run vs Andrew Miller

Despite Zimmerman's walk-off prowess, he has somehow only hit two of them in extra innings. Number 10 in his career came just a few days ago, as Zimmerman again buried the Yankees with a walk-off. There are two cool factors in this homer, as he did it against Miller, who had not allowed a run since becoming New York's closer, and who had only allowed 12 homers over his last 213 innings (.51 HR/9), dating back to 2012. The other bonus points come from the homer coming in a line drive that hit the foul pole up top, landing in the Nationals' bullpen.

#5 - May 12, 2007 – Grand Slam vs Jorge Julio

According to Baseball Almanac's database, there have been somewhere around 180 walk-off grand slams since 1950, and Ryan Zimmerman has 2 of them. In fact, he only has 4 grand slams overall in his career, so this is kind of another golden nugget in Zimmerman's resume. With the game tied and mediocre hurler Jorge Julio on the mound, Zimmerman won the game with 2 outs and a 1-0 count and the bases loaded. In another reminder of how far the Nationals have come during his career, just look at the plethora of empty seats.

#4 - March 30, 2008 – Solo vs Peter Moylan

This was the fourth walk-off HR in Zimmerman's career, and just by the superficial description, it doesn't look so special. It was a solo shot off a middling pitcher, but the whole context of this homer makes it all the sweeter. As you can guess from the date, it was early in the season – in fact, it was Opening Day, which doubled as the first game ever played at Nationals Park. After Jon Rauch blew the save, Zimmerman saved the day with his heroics. Just to see how far the Nats have come, remember that their Opening Day starter that day was Odalis Perez.

#3 - August 19, 2011 – Grand Slam vs Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson was a very good reliever. He won a World Series with the Phillies and was their closer in 2011, and entering this particular game he had a 2.06 ERA. After surrendering 6 runs to blow the save, he left with a 3.25 ERA. Zimmerman got up to bat with the bases loaded in what already was a superb comeback by the Nationals, who were a year removed from their first division title. The ball was crushed to left field, but even then the Phillies left the game with a 20-game lead over the Nats.

#2 - July 31, 2010 – 3-run vs Brad Lidge

In 2010, the Phillies were two-time defending NL champions and went on to win 97 games. They had Brad Lidge as closer, and he only allowed 5 homers all year. In fact, this would be the last one he'd allow for the season, counting playoffs. Even still, this dinger was huge, as the Nationals were trailing and had only a 19% winning probability as the inning started. A single and a walk paved the way for Zimmerman, who delivered as he usually does, crushing a deep fly ball to dead center. Bonus points for his slow trot around the bases.

#1 - July 4, 2006 – 3-Run vs Joe Borowski

Just 16 days after his first career walk-off homer, Zimmerman would get another chance to deliver. The Nats were trailing against mediocre closer Joe Borowski, which would seem to take away some of the luster of this particular homer. However, what could be cooler than hitting a walk-off on July 4th in the nation's capital? Zimmerman's flare for the dramatic earned him a .965 WPA, meaning that he almost single-handedly won the game for Washington.

 



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