Poor defense, poor attitude: some might argue that offensive dominance—or something close to it—would offset Hanley Ramirez’s detriments. After all, his .319 batting average and 143 wRC+ were welcomed in Florida from 2007-2010, despite his migraine-causing behavior. He was the fourth best batter, per fWAR, in said time frame, so management could turn a blind-ish eye to his antics.
|All he needs is a friend. (US Presswire)|
The wheels fell off circa 2010 in the clubhouse, though, where he openly feuded with manager Fredi Gonzalez, and by 2011, he was hardly a semblance of the same player who was once Rookie of the Year and thrice an All-Star. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would claim that Ramirez was even an asset last year: his defense was typically unimpressive, his injuries constantly flaring up, and his offense met the rest of his game in the gutter. He was below average, period.
So the Marlins decided to anger their former franchise cornerstone by signing Jose Reyes to a clearly bloated contract, and subsequently requested that Ramirez move to third base. He didn’t take kindly to it, and his performance reflects that: below average UZR, close to league average offensive output, a dip in plate discipline and an ugly .246 batting average. Still, the Dodgers accepted Ramirez’s countless flaws, offered him a home at shortstop (perhaps only until Dee Gordon comes back, but that remains to be seen), and, one would suppose, stocked up on Advil for the long run. How will he play in Dodger blue? Is he ready to once again help your fantasy lineup?
Angle One: Parks, generally
Marlins Park in Miami has a rep of being, after mere months, a pitcher’s park. And while it’s hard to hit home runs in the new stadium (a 0.801 Park Factor), it actually functions as a hitter’s park, with a favorable Park Factor of 1.11 in the runs department. Dodger Stadium, on the other hand, has long been understood to favor pitchers, and this year is no different: it has a 0.852 Park Factor for runs scored, and is nearly as hard to hit homers in as Marlins Park (0.847).
Hanley’s new schedule will include six games at AT&T Park, three at PNC Park, three at PETCO Park, and 29 games in his new home park. All in all, the average runs Park Factor for Hanley’s remaining games is 0.921, or roughly equivalent to hitting in Minute Maid Park this season. If Ramirez had played for the Marlins, though, he would’ve enjoyed a runs Park Factor of 1.079 for the remainder of the year, or roughly equivalent to hitting in Busch Stadium this season. Hanley got the raw end of the deal here.
Angle Two: Parks, Hanley-specific
His previous home park was home for only a brief period, so the sample size we draw from is merely 200 or so plate appearances. The splits are substantial, though, as Ramirez has been (in terms of raw offensive output) as good as Prince Fielder (wRC+ of 136) when he’s playing at Marlins Park. On the other side of the spectrum is Hanley Ramirez away from his home, where he’s been as offensively inept as Brandon Crawford (wRC+ in the range of 70).
In previous years, the split has been existent but hardly noticeable. This year, poor luck is harming Ramirez in away ballgames, where he has a .198 BABIP. But there is some concern in his total loss of plate discipline on the road: his walk to strikeout ratio tumbles from 0.73 to 0.33. His splits should be dismissible in that he was capable on the road last year, but perhaps Hanley will miss Marlins Park—where he’s been a Prince Fielder-like figure—more than we think.
And while in only 79 career plate appearances at Dodger Stadium, Ramirez’s OPS is upwards of 1.000, like all else in Ramirez’s game, the trend has tumbled from 2009-2011. He’s managed only a .678 OPS in Dodger Stadium in his 30 at-bats in recent times. Who knew a nugget so small could be so telling?
Angle Three: steals
The Marlins have stolen the most bases in the league at 95, and have attempted 22 more than the Dodgers. The Dodgers have a poor stolen base success rate despite the presence of base running guru Davey Lopes, and while the potential for a Matt Kemp-like mentorship is there, firstly, Ramirez needs to prove himself willing to improve. I’d expect a short-term dip in steals, which isn’t the focal point of his game anymore, anyhow.
Angle Four: Lineup protection
In Giancarlo Stanton’s absence from the lineup due to injury (July 3 to present), the following goon squad has protected, at different points, Ramirez: Justin Ruggiano, Emilio Bonifacio, Greg Dobbs, Austin Kearns and Carlos Lee. His protection performed well, but more to the point, Hanley suffered. He managed only seven hits. He struck out 12 times, saw his batting average dip 13 points, and his on-base percentage tumble 11 points.
So while it’s quick to draw conclusions, Hanley seems to function well with a true threat situated behind him in the lineup. Someone who can scare pitchers into an aggressive approach with his immediate table-setter; someone who can make pitchers throw strikes, in fear that they’ll put men on base for the superior hitter to come. Someone who does match that profile is Giancarlo Stanton. Someone who doesn’t is James Loney, and for now, Ramirez will slot in the five hole ahead of Loney.
While hitting behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier (both successful on-base machines) could lead to more at-bats with runners in scoring position, tumbling down the lineup and having James Loney and Luis Cruz serve as protection doesn’t bode well for his runs scored. Pitchers might not give him much to hit with Loney’s .642 OPS considered, and the lineup switch is probably a wash, stats-wise. You give and you get.
Angle Five: Intangibles and conclusions
Perhaps this can be dismissed as my know-nothing speculation, but to this viewer, Hanley Ramirez doesn’t seem like the type who’s all that excited to play baseball. He stumbles along, jogs (if that) down the line when he hits fly balls, plays unexcited defense, and survives, by all accounts, on raw talent alone. And while I could be wrong, I wouldn’t give him the typical benefit-of-the-doubt in the “He’s bored because he’s not playing for a contender” department. I can imagine that a playoff race could light a fuse under Ramirez’s ass, and that he’s not just a robot playing baseball, but it’s hardly a stone-cold conclusion.
A change of scenery, which means an escape from the most hated man in baseball at the moment (Jeffrey Loria), may help Ramirez salvage some value. But he’ll face tougher ballparks to go along with high pressure and expectations, and I wouldn’t hold my breath for a turnaround.
All park factors from ESPN. All other stats from FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.