Now that we've made it past the All-Star break, Ryan Zimmerman is due for another cortisone cocktail, according to the Washington Post. The shot in his shoulder will reduce inflammation in his AC joint, and prevent him from feeling pain when he hits. Zimmerman said that the ability he regained after receiving the shot made him “happier,” and it has been making Nationals fans happy ever since.
Most fans have noticed the change in how much better Zimmerman has been playing since the beginning of the season, but when you examine the difference in his numbers during the periods before and after cortisone, you can see what a stark difference there is.
In the time B.C. (before cortisone), Zimmerman played in 55 games starting on Opening Day. In 242 plate appearances, he hit three home runs and 22 RBIs, and his offensive slash line was .218/.285/.305. Zimmerman received his first shot on June 24, and the effect of the cortisone was obvious immediately. It set off a six-game hitting streak for Zimmerman (starting about one hour after he got the shot), and he has only had three hitless games since.
In 20 games since the remedy was administered, Zimmerman has hit seven home runs and 21 RBIs. In less than half the number of games played before cortisone, he has already hit more than twice as many home runs, and nearly the same amount of RBIs. His slash line has jumped up to .354/.420/.722 since June 24, and although those numbers are still a bit exaggerated because of the small sample size, his post cortisone production is much more consistent with his career slash line of .286/.352/.474 than the numbers he was putting up before.
Luckily, the injury never impacted his defense (or his ability to score on wild pitches), as he has continued to make highlight reel plays from third base. But a Zim without offense just isn’t the same Zim, who the fans are used to seeing drop bombs on opposing teams, especially when the game is on the line. So the question stands, what will the offense from a cortisoneless Zim look like when he has to stop taking the potentially harmful drug?
Eventually Zimmerman will have to stop receiving the shots, with good reason. Cortisone is a numbing agent that allows the body to function without pain while still being injured, which can lead to overuse of the injured area and long-term damage. To avoid the risk of permanent damage, Zimmerman and the team want to treat his use of the drug carefully, and there is a limit to how many shots he can have. He should have enough room to make it to the end of the season, but then he will be able to rest and heal in the offseason.
The good news for Nationals fans, though, is that cortisone is not a performance-enhancing drug, allowing Zimmerman to play beyond his ability. It’s just allowing Zim to be Zim without pain. That is the coolest part - all of a sudden there was this explosion from him offensively, and even though people have been joking that they need some cortisone to become as awesome as Zim, it's not the cortisone that makes him that way. He is just Ryan Zimmerman, naturally awesome.
So a healthy Zim without cortisone should look pretty much the same as what we are seeing right now. Ultimately the fans will be able to see production just like this from their favorite third baseman, without the aid of the medicine, but until then, it is comforting to know that our star third baseman is able to perform and keep the Nats in the race to October baseball.