Ryan Zimmerman's batting line was even more astonishing a week ago. Last Saturday, after a remarkable 17-game run in which he hit .500 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs, Zimmerman was hitting .435 and slugging .907. He led the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, home runs (tied with Aaron Judge), RBIs and OPS.
He didn't get a plate appearance on Sunday and then went 0-for-4 on Monday, 1-for-5 on Tuesday and 0-for-5 on Wednesday before Thursday's rainout, which dropped his average to .393. Still, he leads the majors in all three Triple Crown categories. He is tied with Judge and Eric Thames with 13 home runs, and his 34 RBIs are one more than Joey Votto's total.
For a 32-year-old who hit .218 with 15 home runs in 467 at-bats in 2016, it has been a remarkable turnaround. As has been widely reported, Zimmerman changed the mechanics of his swing to alter his launch angle and hit more fly balls. Needless to say, it's working, though what he has really done is hit more line drives than fly balls. Check his hit types since 2015:
He has hit 28 fly balls, and nine of them have left the park. That 32 percent rate of home runs on fly balls is not sustainable; Ryan Braun led the majors last year with a 19.6 percent rate. Zimmerman is hitting the ball farther, too: His average fly ball distance has been 326 feet, compared to 288 in 2016, so he's barreling up his fly balls more often. In other words, there's some real improvement here and also some good fortune.
Whatever the reason, Zimmerman's start has been remarkable. I thought it would be fun to compare it to some others since 2010 and see if his early Triple Crown chase is truly unprecedented.
Through May 12, 2016 (33-35 games)
Batting average leader: Daniel Murphy, .409
Slugging percentage leader: Manny Machado, .691
Home runs leader: Nolan Arenado, 13
RBIs leader: Robinson Cano, 33
OPS leader: Murphy, 1.110
These guys all ended up with terrific seasons. Murphy was hitting .397 through the end of May but went 1-for-12 his next three games and dropped to .379 just like that. He finished at .347 and tied Votto with the best OPS in the National League at .985 (David Ortiz led the majors at 1.021). Machado hit .318 in the first half but slumped to .266 in the second half after hitting .204 in July. Arenado tied for the NL home run lead, with 41, and topped the majors with 133 RBIs. He was at 31 on this date.
Through May 12, 2015 (32-34 games)
Batting average: Dee Gordon, .412
Slugging percentage: Nelson Cruz, .754
Home runs: Cruz, 12
RBIs: Bryce Harper, 31
OPS: Cruz, 1.155
Remember that start by Gordon? I watched video of all his hits around this time, and there was a ton of good fortune involved, as you would expect, with infield hits and bloopers that were dropping. He remained above .400 through May 19 and held on to win the batting title with a .333 mark. Cruz finished with 44 home runs while hitting .302/.369/.566, and Harper parlayed his hot start into an MVP season.
Through May 12, 2014 (37-40 games)
Batting average: Troy Tulowitzki, .395
Slugging percentage: Tulowitzki, .766
Home runs: Jose Abreu, 14
RBIs: Giancarlo Stanton, 42
OPS: Tulowitzki, 1.263
This was the last great stretch of Tulo's career. This was a pitching-dominated year, and he was above anybody else; Jose Bautista was the only other hitter at this point with an OPS above 1.000, at 1.002. Tulowitzki actually climbed to .400 on May 17, but a slump at the end of the month dragged his average down to .352, and he was hitting .340 on July 19, when he injured his hip and ended his season. Victor Martinez ended up the OPS leader, at .974, the lowest MLB-leading figure since Wade Boggs' 965 in 1988.
Through May 12, 2013 (35-37 games)
Batting average: Miguel Cabrera, .379
Slugging percentage: Chris Davis, .664
Home runs: Justin Upton, 12
RBIs: Cabrera, 40
OPS: Davis, 1.069
Cabrera won his second straight MVP award after finishing with 44 home runs and 137 RBIs while leading the majors in average (.342), OBP (.442) and slugging (.636). He did not win the home run or RBI title; Davis claimed those, with 53 and 138. Davis had 11 home runs on May 12 and then went on a tear, slamming 26 over his next 58 games heading into the All-Star break. The streaky Upton finished with just 27.
Through May 12, 2012 (31-34 games)
Batting average: Josh Hamilton, .402
Slugging percentage: Hamilton, .877
Home runs: Hamilton, 18
RBIs: Hamilton, 41
OPS: Hamilton, 1.334
Oh, man, peak Josh Hamilton was something, wasn't he? He did all of this over a remarkable 31-game stretch that included a four-homer, eight-RBI game May 8. This put him on path as a potential Triple Crown winner, the first since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. We did end up with a Triple Crown winner, but it was Cabrera, not Hamilton. On May 12, Cabrera was hitting .282/.336/.481 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs. He finished at .330-44-139. As for Hamilton, it was, sadly, the last great stretch of his career. He hit .252/.325/.493 the rest of the way, signed with the Angels in 2013 and never again was an impact player. By the way, third in OPS on this date: Bryan LaHair. He turned that hot start into an All-Star appearance.
Through May 12, 2011 (36-38 games)
Batting average: Matt Holliday, .390
Slugging percentage: Jose Bautista, .760
Home runs: Curtis Granderson, 12
OPS: Bautista, 1.275
Bautista ended up the league's best offensive player in 2011, with a .302 average, while leading the majors with 43 home runs, a .608 slugging percentage and 1.056 OPS. Granderson ended up leading the American League in both runs and RBIs and finished fourth in the MVP voting. Matt Kemp would lead the majors with 126 RBIs but lose out to Ryan Braun in the MVP voting. Cabrera led with a .344 average.
Through May 12, 2010 (33-36 games)
Batting average: Andre Ethier, .385
Slugging percentage: Ethier, .738
Home runs: Paul Konerko, 13
RBIs: Ethier, 37
OPS: Ethier, 1.182
This is fun: Casey McGehee was third in RBIs at this point, and Jorge Cantu was fourth. Ethier had a 30-game hit streak in April and May 2011, but in 2010, his average was just him being red hot. Unfortunately, while hitting .392 on May 14, Ethier broke his pinkie finger. He missed just two weeks but hit .260 upon his return and finished at .292. Konerko had a big season, hitting .312 with 39 home runs, while Hamilton led the majors with a .359 average and edged Cabrera in OPS. This was Bautista's breakout, 54-homer season, but he had just seven through May 12.
Some other notable performances through May 12 in the years 2000 to 2009:
Evan Longoria, 2009: 45 RBIs in 32 games. Over a 13-game span from April 27 to May 9, he drove in 28 runs. He finished with 113.
Lance Berkman, 2008: .393/.470/.800, 13 HRs, 38 RBIs in 38 games. He finished at .312 with 29 home runs and 106 RBIs.
Albert Pujols, 2006: 18 HRs, 44 RBIs, .839 slugging, 1.313 slugging.
Clint Barmes, 2005: .395! What, you don't remember the Clint Barmes .400 watch? He got up to .400 on May 7 after a 3-for-4 day but slid under .300 by season's end.
Barry Bonds, 2004: This gets into the Bonds Silly Stat Era. He was hitting .356/.621/.849 through 31 games on his way to a .362/.609/.812 line.
Barry Bonds, 2002: .345/.593/.833, 12 HRs though 33 games. Sammy Sosa had 15 home runs.
Manny Ramirez, 2001: Hitting .406 with 44 RBIs. He remained at .400 through May 26 but fell to .306 by season's end. This was the year Bonds set the home run record, but Luis Gonzalez actually led him 17-15 on this date. Gonzalez hit 57 and Bonds 73.
Todd Helton, 2000: .408 average. He was last at .400 on June 10, was at .370 on Aug. 2, then surged again and was up to .399 on Aug. 18, after a 34-for-58 run over 16 games. He was still at .397 on Aug. 28 but hit just .274 in September (granted, with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs). He finished at .372.