What the heck happened to Aramis Ramirez in 2010? He posted his first sub-100 OPS+ season since 2002 with the Pirates, and his slugging percentage dropped below .500 for the first time since 2003. At age 32, was it the first drastic sign of decline for the third baseman?
One of the key problems for Ramirez last season was his inability to do anything against fastballs.
In 2008-09, Ramirez hit .322/.413/.550 on fastballs compared to .218/.283/.325 in 2010. As you can see from the graphic above, he had a lot of trouble catching up to fastballs away, producing a .524 OPS.
One possible explanation was that Ramirez was swinging at 7% more fastballs away last season. This actually reduced his strikeout rate on outside fastballs by nearly 6%. But it resulted in more weak hits as his SLG% dropped 54 points versus fastballs in that zone.
Ramirez did see a noticeable drop in BABIP versus fastballs last season. From 2008-09 it was .335, dropping to .246 last season. However, before we start attributing his troubles to some bad luck, we need to acknowledge that his averages on both line drives and ground balls dropped considerably last season.
With an overall decline in average on liners and grounders coming off fastballs, it's probably more indicative of an issue at the plate rather than bad luck on balls put in play. If Ramirez is going to have a bounce back year as many in Chicago are expecting, improving his numbers on fastballs will be essential.