Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Aramis Ramirez's quietly great season

You know the old bit about if a tree falls in the woods? The same thing holds true for baseball. If a player plays great for a team out of contention, does anyone notice? Well, perhaps fantasy baseball players notice. But it is safe to say that this Fan has not noticed what a fine season Aramis Ramirez is having for the Milwaukee Brewers. His season would probably still be beyond notice here if it wasn't for a tweet by Larry Granillo last night on Twitter. Granillo (@wezen_ball) pointed out that Ramirez was an easy push to go beyond fifty doubles this season. That fact makes one sit up and take notice.

If you were to give a quick quiz and ask which Brewer has the most extra base hits, most would say Braun. And true enough, Braun leads the team with 35 homers and his .600 slugging percentage leads the team too. But Aramis Ramirez leads the Brewers with 65 extra base hits. He has hit an amazing 43 doubles, two triples and twenty homers. His 65 extra base hits make up nearly half of his 133 hits for the season. His 532 slugging percentage is his highest since 2007 and his .890 OPS is his highest since his 2009 season.

Where did this come from? Maybe it sneaked up on this writer because Ramirez was pretty pitiful at the start of the season. He finished April with a .645 OPS. By May 19, he still had a .658 OPS. But he started hitting after that. He finished May strong and and his OPS for both June and July were over one. He has cooled off only slightly and has put up a .924 OPS in August. But that is still excellent.

Fielding metrics also show Ramirez to be having an excellent year at third base too. Fangraphs rates his season as tied for fourth best (with Beltre) for the most valuable third basemen in baseball this season. Only Wright, Cabrera and Headley are ahead of him. And if he was a better base runner, he would be scoring even higher. Fangraphs has him at 4.7 fWAR for the season. Baseball-reference.com has him at 3.8. Both are excellent. 

If we go by Fangraphs' valuation, Ramirez's play has been worth $21 million this season. That is making the Brewers look pretty smart considering his back loaded deal nets him only $6 million in 2012. The contract tops out at $16 million in 2014 with a mutual option in 2015. But say the Brewers decline that option in 2015, then the Brewers are well on their way to getting the kind of value in Ramirez they paid for.

So again, why has this all gone so unnoticed? A lot has to do with the fact that the Brewers had losing months in April, May, June and July as their bullpen crashed and burned and took them well out of contention.

Some of the lack of notice is also that a lot of his damage has come at home. Ramirez's home/road splits are pretty dramatic. His OPS at home in 61 games is .966. On the road is a different story. His road OPS is only .774. That is a 192 point swing and is significant. All of his batted ball and plate discipline stats are pretty consistent with his career numbers. The little bump over his recent seasons seems to be from enjoying Miller Park.

But no matter, teams are smart if they sign players who can take advantage of their confines. And Aramis Ramirez has given the Brewers everything they could have hoped when they signed him. Ramirez has quietly put together a great season. A few more close to this one and we could start seeing a HOF argument. To be sure, fantasy baseball players have noticed and Brewers fans have noticed and have come to appreciate their new third baseman.

1 comment:

Bill Miller said...

What's interesting about his career is that now at age 34, he has a chance to lead his league in an offensive category (doubles) for the first time in his career.
Incidentally, he already has more career doubles than Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Pie Traynor, Bobby Wallace and Ron Santo, all of whom are in the HOF.
Nice post,