We’re just over two weeks away from Opening Day.
Despite being a first-year Milwaukee Brewer, today’s subject is well-known to Brewers fans already by virtue of having spent his entire career in the National League Central.
The 33-year-old’s career began with the Pittsburgh Pirates the same year that the Brewers made the move to the senior circuit from the American League. That was 1998, of course.
Also, of course, the person that I’m talking about is:
Before we get into that, I wanted to relate a quick story.
So many of these players are simply assigned a number when they’re first called up to the big leagues. They become a part of their identity, but they aren’t always their own choosing.
Ramirez is different.
When he came to Milwaukee the number he had worn his entire career (#16) was owned by backup catcher George Kottaras.
Former all-stars usually get what they want when pitted against a backup catcher, but this wasn’t a simple exchange of something for a number. Ramirez wanted to wear 16 not simply because he always had.
Instead, Ramirez first wore 16 when he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates at the behest of his father. Mr. Ramirez never told his son why he wanted him to wear the number, and unfortunately passed away a few years ago.
But the ballplayer honored his father’s request and continues to do so to this day.
No matter what you may think of the stories of Ramirez’ lackadaisical attitude or perceived laziness at times on the diamond…
That’s a pretty cool reason to prefer a number. Kudos to Mr. Kottaras for not standing in the way of Mr. Ramirez or his son.
Anyway, it’s no secret that Ramirez is an average-on-his-best-days defender at this stage of his career. He doesn’t have great range, even for the hot corner, and his while his throwing arm is still plenty strong enough, his throwing accuracy is at times found to be wanting.
Despite popular belief to the contrary, the starting third baseman last year wasn’t bad defensively. Casey McGehee had solid footwork, accuracy and got to his share of balls. Ramirez should handle the routine play fine, but it is likely that there will be plays this year which Ramirez won’t make that Brewers fans will be wondering “why not?” because last year they’d have been converted into outs.
And defensively, the most important thing you can do is to convert outs into outs.
That brings us back to the plate which is where Ramirez will look to earn the $36 million guaranteed over the life of the contract which he signed with Milwaukee this past December.
Ramirez is a notoriously slow starter at the plate, and he contributes a good portion of that to the weather he dealt with while playing his home games outside in the usually cold Aprils at Wrigley Field these last several years.
Hopefully the climate controlled environment of Miller Park will help to alleviate some of that and Ramirez will start off like he tends to finish seasons.
Regardless of his start, he stands to finish much better than Brewers third basemen did at the plate last year.
McGehee in 2011: 155 G, 546 AB, 46 R, 122 H, 24 doubles, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 45 BB, 104 K, .223/.280/.346, .626 OPS
Ramirez in 2011: 149 G, 565 AB, 80 R, 173 H, 35 doubles, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 43 BB, 69 K, .306/.361/.510, .871 OPS
Now, for the record, I fully believe that 2012 McGehee will also outperform 2011 McGehee, but I don’t think he’ll reach the numbers Ramirez has averaged over the course of this career.
But that’s how Ramirez compares to third base. McGehee batted fifth or lower in the lineup for manager Ron Roenicke last year. I mention that because the other thing Ramirez was brought here to do was to fill the cleanup spot in the lineup vacated by the departed Prince Fielder.
There are many analytical types who will tell you that lineup protection is a myth and that there is absolutely nothing that has been able to quantify the effect one player hitting behind another has on that first player.
Much the same, there are many baseball people who continually bring it up as a matter of fact.
Regardless to which side of that fence you’re on, it can be argued that a superstar player finds himself pitched around in certain situations when there isn’t somebody behind him that can make the opposing team pay for that tactic.
Let me put it this way, when Roenicke, principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin met this off-season to discuss Roenicke’s wants, several positions were presented as needs by Melvin.
Roenicke’s simple response: “Cleanup hitter.”
He didn’t know which position on the diamond that would necessarily come from at that point, but Roenicke was clear in his desire for someone to bat in the lineup behind Ryan Braun. There’s something to that.
I offer now a profile that was written by my Brewer Nation Podcast co-host, Cary Kostka.
This was originally posted at his Sport Profiles blog: http://sportprofiles.wordpress.com.
Career to Date
Aramis Ramirez, born on June 25th, 1978 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on November 7, 1994 and made his major league debut on May 26th, 1998 with the Pirates. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs (with Kenny Lofton) on July 23rd, 2003, where he remained until he opted out of his contract with the Cubs and signed a three year, $36 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2011.
Ramirez played in his first full season in 2001, finishing with a .300 BAV, 34 HR, 112 RBI. Over his major league career (6 years with the Pirates, 9 years with the Cubs) Ramirez has averaged .284-30-108. Ramirez was an All-Star in 2005 and 2008 and won the N.L. Silver Slugger award at third base in 2011. He has only once finished in the top 10 for MVP voting (2004) despite have 6-100 RBI seasons, 4-30 home run seasons, and 9-20 home run seasons. Although healthy for most of his career, Ramirez missed a large portion of the 2009 due to a dislocated shoulder suffered against his current team (Brewers) on May 8th. He has also suffered a number of calf and hamstring injuries that has led to him only being able to play 140 games twice since 2006, and only once (2011) since 2008.
At The Plate
Ramirez had a TPR (total player rating) of 77.2 in the hitting department during the 2011 campaign. As the numbers above show, he can flat out rake when at the plate.
Ramirez’s’ batting stance allows him to generate power by moving his back hip into the pitch. When he swings, his hips rotate ahead of his hands to give strength to his core muscles, increasing bat speed. The back shoulder rotates with the back leg and hips which increases the leverage of his swing.
He is able to keep his swing short by keeping his front knee bent forward when his back toes comes down, then straightening the front knee as he moves closer to the contact point of the bat with the incoming pitch. This has the added effect of increased bat control, allowing him to easily adjust in mid swing.
Ramirez’s running TPR comes in at -12.2. He has below average speed and is not a base stealing or base running threat when he is out there. He is not very aggressive on the base paths, which while minimizing base running mistakes has drawn some frustration of both the organizations he has played for and the hometown fans when he fails to take an easy extra base.
Defense is definitely Ramirez’s weak point, checking in with a fielding TPR of -35.2. As his career has progressed the number of mental mistakes he makes on the field have come down to almost zero which has improved his defense overall, according to the SABR zone rating. His biggest asset on the field is his arm; it is both strong and accurate.
He has an overall lack of range and seems out of position at times. The lack of range has led to speculation that the Brewers, should Mat Gamel fail at first and Taylor Green show he is ready for third, would entertain shifting Ramirez to first. The cause for Ramirez to appear of position could be more of a coaching/managerial call than Ramirez himself. I feel this will be proven this season, as Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke loves positioning his fielders to give them better chances of being successful with the glove.
Early in his career Ramirez was seen as being a lazy, immature player but has worked his way towards shedding those early career observations, becoming a more humble, but competitive player. While he is not a gym rat, he has put forth more effort in recent years as he struggled with a number of injuries since 2008. The only incident I could find was a dugout fight with Cubs teammate Carlos Silva, during a spring training game on March 2nd, 2011 after Silva started blaming his teammates for their lack of defense.
As mentioned earlier, Ramirez has only once appeared in 140 games since 2008, making his recent injury history concern #1 for not only himself, but for his new team, Brewers fans, and fantasy baseball players.
Most of Aramis Ramirez’s community works comes as a part of MLB-DDA (MLB Dominican Development Alliance) and USAID (United States Agency for International Development), which provides and supports for a number of programs, including “The Bank Of Hope”, “There Is Power In Learning”, Hope and Life”, and “Spaces To Grow”.
Ramirez’s hitting method should allow him to remain a productive hitter into his 40’s, with an expected slow slippage of power. His defense at 3B will eventually make it necessary for him to move to first, or will send him to the A.L. as a DH. He will continue to be an above average player if he stays healthy.
Bottom line for Ramirez in 2012 is that he’ll hit cleanup, man the hot corner, and hopefully drive in plenty of runs.
The Brewers need his bat to perform to successfully defend their National League Central Division championship.
After spending his entire 14-year career in that same division, Ramirez has only been a part of three such teams (all with Chicago in 2003, 2007, 2008) but without a World Series appearance to show for it, let alone a ring.
He wants that chance and the Milwaukee Brewers would be more than happy to give it to him.