Image courtest of: Jonathan Lurie
While waiver wire gems such as Jose Bautista (18 HRs, 45 RBI) and Carlos Silva (8 wins, 2.93 ERA) are unexpectedly dominating fantasy leagues, perennial All-Stars such as Mark Teixeira (.211 BA) and Dan Haren (4.83 ERA) are struggling mightily.
The most perplexing case, however, is that of Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez. In 178 at-bats this season, the soon-to-be 32-year-old sports an embarrassing .168/.232/.285 triple-slash that even Mario Mendoza wouldn’t claim.
Normally one of the top sluggers at his position, (32 HRs, 105 RBI, .302 BA per season from ’04 to ’08) Ramirez has just 11 extra-base hits and 22 RBI through nine weeks of play this season. Some of this can be attributed to a BABIP (.189) that ranks second to last among batters with at least 180 plate appearances.
Another likely reason for Ramirez’s ineffectiveness is the sore left thumb that’s been bothering him for the last few weeks. The former Pirates farm hand has been in and out of the lineup recently while nursing the injury, which has disrupted his timing and rhythm at the plate.
While Ramirez is taking walks at an 8.1 percent clip, (7.3 percent career) his alarmingly high strikeout rate of 25.1 percent this season has overshadowed a respectable career mark of 15.5 percent.
Ramirez’s plate discipline stats, however, just cause more confusion. In 2009, Ramirez hacked at 31.5 percent of pitches off the plate. This season, that number has actually dropped to 29.9 percent.
Ramirez’s swinging strike rate is up slightly, from 9.0 and 9.4 percent in recent years to 10.4 percent in 2010, while his contact rate appears to be heading in the wrong direction as well, falling to 78.6 percent this season after topping 80 percent in each season since 2004.
The most eye-popping stat, however, lies within his batted ball totals. Ramirez has always been a fly-ball hitter, (45.1 percent career) but his 59.9 percent mark this season is the second highest among batters with at least 180 plate appearances. Further, his HR/FB rate is a shockingly low 6.1 percent this season (13.4 career).
Not coincidentally, Ramirez’s line drive rate is down to 15.3 percent this season, compared to 20.4 and 21.3 in ’08 and ’09 respectively.
Ramirez’s sore thumb is obviously effecting his ability to generate power, but it doesn’t explain his ineptitude before the injury occurred.
His three hits (one a HR) and two RBI Saturday night against Houston gave fantasy managers hope, but he followed it up with an 0-for-3 performance on Sunday before sitting out Monday’s contest at Pittsburgh.
If there’s any reason for optimism, it’s due to the fact that Ramirez tends to warm up as the summer months progress. A career .275 hitter with a HR/AB rate of 22.7 prior to the All-Star Break, Ramirez bats .290 in the second half, going deep once every 17.8 at-bats.
Of course none of this matters if Ramirez doesn’t get healthy. A short DL stint to clear his mind and heal his thumb may be necessary.
While there’s no guarantee Ramirez will become productive anytime soon, his value is at an all-time low. If you can afford to carry the dead weight for a few weeks, make a move and wait it out. Sooner or later, his .189 average on balls in play will rise, and with it will come premium power at a surprisingly scarce position.
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