Perception Becomes Reality

By Nathan Petrashek

Back when Brewer Nation posted its Brewers by the (Jersey) Numbers on Aramis Ramirez, I raised a small issue about the post.  The problem related to the perception that Ramirez is a “notoriously slow starter.”  While this may have been true early in his career, I pointed out that, aside from his disastrous 2010 season, Ramirez had not had a slow month of April since 2006. The Nation responded that Ramirez himself had addressed the topic, which is fair.  Ramirez believed the cold Chicago air negatively affected his early performance, and said he was looking forward to playing at Miller Park.  While that didn’t quite seem like a realistic explanation for the peaks and valleys in Ramirez’s early season performance, the fact that Ramirez perceived himself as a slow starter-whatever the cause-was significant.

The reality early on in 2012 hasn’t been pretty.  Ramirez is slashing just .158/.222/.263 in the first 16 games.  It’s far too early to talk about replacing him in the lineup, but privately the Brewers brass have to be hoping they didn’t make a mistake signing Ramirez to a 3-year, $36M deal this offseason.  For a player signed to protect Braun in the lineup and replace some of Fielder’s production, the results in the early going have been woefully inadequate.

So far, Ramirez’s slump hasn’t done a ton of harm in the team context, though. As Ryan Topp points out today at Disciples of Uecker, the Brewers are actually averaging more runs scored per game than most other National League teams.  In general, Ramirez’s bad start has been covered by some excellent production further down in the order from players like Alex Gonzalez, Mat Gamel, and Jonathan Lucroy.

Ramirez is clearly frustrated though.  He wanted to come in and impress his new team, and you can tell that he is quickly losing his patience.  He can take comfort, though, in the fact that he has not fundamentally altered his approach. Ramirez’s swing and contact rates rates are generally not too far off from his career norms, though he appears to be swinging at slightly fewer strikes (and making slightly less contact when he does swing).  His batted ball percentages look solid too, although his HR/FB currently sits at a paltry 4.8 percent.  We can expect that to regress closer to his career rate of 13.2 percent as the season goes forward, though.

The primary culprit for Ramirez’s slump looks to be luck, not his attitude.  Early on, Ramirez is sporting a .182 BABIP, well below his career average of .288.  That’s far worse even than his 2010 average of .245, when Ramirez posted nearly the worst slash line of his career.  In short, if Ramirez hasn’t altered anything – and the statistics suggest he has become only a hair more conservative, if anything – we can expect a greater percentage of balls to fall for hits, and some will even leave the park.  With Ramirez playing the same brand of baseball, it would be prudent to let him work it out in the four-spot for the time being.

Ramirez in March/April (games in parenthesis)  

2000-.167/.219/.250 (18)

2001-.256/.310/.526 (21)

2002-.348/.407/.500 (14)

2003-.247/.321/.371 (26)

2004-.308/.333/.626 (22)

2005-.241/.344/.458 (22)

2006-.197/.321/.394 (21)

2007-.309/.367/.556 (20)

2008-.287/.411/.554 (27)

2009-.358/.393/.585 (13)

2010-.152/.216/.283 (23)

2011-.295/.358/.400 (25)

2012-.158/.222/.263 (15)

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