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Entries in Hanley Ramirez (9)


Healthy Hanley Key for Marlins

As the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins kick off the 2012 regular season tonight at 7:00 pm EST on ESPN, much of the focus is on what's new for the fish -- the name, stadium, manager, unis and roster among them. But a holdover moving to a new position, Hanley Ramirez, may be the most important Marlin of all.

The shortstop-turned third baseman had a down year in 2011, slowed by a bad back and a left shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in September. Ramirez's OPS+ plummeted from 139 from 2008-10 to just 95. Those ailments put a big dent in Hanley's power numbers, as his slugging percentage declined from .497 from '08 to '10 to .379 in 2011.

The reason for Ramirez's power outage was two-fold: He hit fewer fly balls, and when he did loft a pitch, it didn't travel near as far.

From 2008-10, Ramirez's 46% ground ball rate was just slightly above the 44% big league average. Take a look at his ground ball percentage by pitch location over that time frame, and then the MLB average:

Ramirez's ground ball rate by pitch location, 2008-10

Average ground ball rate by pitch location, 2008-10Ramirez grounded out more often on low-and-away pitches (68%) than the average hitter (61%), but otherwise he hit a normal number of choppers. Now, look at his ground ball rate by pitch location in 2011:

Ramirez's ground ball rate by pitch location, 2011

Hanley's ground ball rate on low-and-away stuff climbed to a startling 82%, highest among all MLB hitters. Plus, his grounder rate on middle and high pitches increased from 41% to 47%. Overall, Ramirez hit a ground ball 52% of the time he put a ball in play. That's Jason Bartlett/Jamey Carroll territory.

When Ramirez did manage to get the ball in the air, he rarely ripped it. He lost nearly 20 feet on his fly balls hit, with his average fly ball distance dropping from 277 feet to 259 feet (the MLB average is about 270 feet). Most of that decline came on pitches thrown up and away:

Ramirez's fly ball distance by pitch location, 2008-10

Ramirez's fly ball distance by pitch location, 2011

Tonight, you'll hear plenty about psychedelic center field sculptures, tape-delay diatribes to come from Ozzie and new duds apparently inspired by the cinematic classic BASEketball. Keep an eye on Hanley's swing, though -- it could be the difference between a run at a playoff spot and a fourth-place finish in the NL East.


Looking When it Counts

White there are plenty of selective hitters in Major League Baseball, there is one count in which batters need to take with certainty, 3-2.  Take a ball and in that count and win a free pass to first base, take a strike and walk back to the dugout.  During the last four seasons, 101 players took at least 100 pitches on a 3-2 count.  The following table shows the hitters who took the highest percentage of walks, or taking ball four:


BatterStrikeout %Walk %
Albert Pujols 9.4% 90.6%
Brian Roberts 8.5% 90.6%
Dustin Pedroia 8.7% 90.4%
Adrian Gonzalez 9.9% 90.1%
Joey Votto 11.0% 89.0%
Miguel Cabrera 10.3% 89.0%
David Ortiz 11.0% 88.4%
Derek Jeter 11.4% 87.9%
Luke Scott 11.4% 87.6%
Andrew McCutchen 12.5% 87.5%


I'm not surprised that sluggers like Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto are near the top of the list.  Often, pitchers will work carefully to these batters, since throwing the a strike might result in a home run.  It's better to try to get them to chase an outside pitch, but these sluggers have an excellent eye for the strike zone.

Note that along with the sluggers are table setters like Dustin Pedroia and Derek Jeter. Their ability to work the count and draw walks makes them so valuable at the top of the order.  You may also notice that the Red Sox stock up on players with great strikeout judgement, as three of these hitters currently reisde in Boston.

At the other end of the spectrum are the hitters who strike out quite often.


BatterStrikeout %Walk %
Drew Stubbs 28.4% 70.6%
Andruw Jones 26.2% 73.8%
Mike Cameron 25.0% 75.0%
Troy Tulowitzki 23.8% 76.2%
Jack Cust 22.1% 77.9%
Jorge Posada 22.0% 77.1%
B. J. Upton 21.7% 77.9%
David DeJesus 21.6% 78.4%
Hanley Ramirez 21.6% 77.8%
Dexter Fowler 21.6% 77.6%


Note that there are a number of good, or formerly good hitters in this list.  Jorge Posada saw his hitting prowess fade this season, but he still reached base at a good clip the last few years.  Troy Tulowitzki rates as the outstanding hitting shortstop in the majors, and Hanley Ramirez held that distinction in previous seasons.  With the exception of B.J. Upton, these are players that are very good, but have more flaws that the group at the top.  It seems that the willingness to take on 3-2 indicates a selective hitter, regardless of how well the 3-2 looks turns out.


Weaker Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins remains mired in a slump.  His .200/.298/.295 slash line pales in comparison to his .306/.379/.506 career numbers.  There doesn't seem to be a change in his approach at the plate or the way pitchers go after him.  Opponents still work him down and away, and Hanley still recognizes balls and strikes as well as he did in 2010.  He simply does not seem to be as strong.

Hanley Ramirez, fly ball distance and line drive rate, 2008-2011.Ramirez suffers from a bad back, and that prevents him from swinging hard.  His average fly ball distance this season stands at 291 feet.  Over the previous three seasons, it came in at 321 feet.  From 2008-2010  he put the ball in play as a line drive about 20% of the time, and hit .787 on those liners.  This season, only 13% of his balls in play are line drives, and he's hitting .667 on them.

The good news is at the end of the graph.  His fly ball rate is spiking upward.  If his back is healing and his strength is returning, Hanley could return to a decent average and help pull the Marlins out of their funk.

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