Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Hanley Ramirez is a polarizing figure. You either love him, or hate him, and they’re not necessarily exclusive to each other. When he’s going good, he’s going really good. But you knew that already, you saw his 2013 performance where he hit .345/.402/.638, with just about average defense. Even though he played in just 86 games, he was worth 5.0 fWAR, which is absurd.
Much has been made this season of Hanley Ramirez. “he isn’t hitting like he was”, or “he’s lazy on defense”, or my favorite “he can’t be counted to be worth a big deal, so trade him to get value now”.
I’ve already touched on Hanley and his lack of replacements on the open market this upcoming season. He is guaranteed to be a member of the Dodgers through the end of this season. A contending team 5 games above .500, with a 1.5 game lead in the wild card race isn’t going to trade their starting shortstop, no matter how many warts Hanley has.
So it’s time to ease up on Ramirez.
No one is arguing for his defense. No one. It’s bad. However, what needs to be realized, is how great a hitter Ramirez is. Last season when everything was going right, he never really had a chance to go through a prolonged slump. 86 games isn’t a large enough sample size to tell anything about a player. The easy assumption is to jump right at the performance and say “look how lazy he is” .260/.347/.465.
However considering the balls put in play by Hanley Ramirez are only dropping in for hits 28.1% of the time. Compare this to his career BABIP of 33.1%, it’s a very significant drop. And when you take into account that his batted ball profile is similar to last season, you could think of this as just simple regression to the mean performance from last year.
Lets also keep in mind that Ramirez has had a BABIP in the .200’s in 2011 and 2012. Both of these seasons he was affected by the lingering shoulder surgery. And you could argue “what if that’s the player we have now?, what if last season was a fluke?”. It’s a fair question, however his ISO (slugging minus average) is a .205 this season, during his injury riddled years, it sat at .136 in 2011 and .180 in 2012. So he’s hitting the ball harder than in those two seasons. And if you really look at last year as a “fluke” like many people want to believe, his .205 ISO this season is his highest since 2008.
Regardless, the performance he’s putting on the field isn’t that bad. Even with diminished luck on the balls he’s putting in play, his wRC+ (park adjusted, measured in percent above league average), his 132 wRC+ is right at his career mark. It isn’t out of the question for him to outperform that mark going forward as his batted ball luck improves.
And now to talk about the defense. I’ve said that he isn’t a good defender. He’s bad. However, lets take a look at the whole player. If you look at the value he puts out, a 1.7 fWAR player who plays SS, is a very valuable shortstop. So valuable, it’s above “gritty defensive gamer” Brandon Crawford, “most hits in Phillies history” Jimmy Rollins, “defensive wizard” Andrelton Simmons, and fellow free agent shortstops Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera.
So it’s not a disaster. We like to think that he is. But just because he’s not hitting as good as last season (no one really is), and just because he’s not a good defender (we should have known that, though), doesn’t mean that he isn’t an asset to the Dodgers club. You could argue the validity of moving him to third base, but no, just because Erisbel Arruebarrena is good at defense doesn’t mean Hanley shouldn’t start at SS if he’s healthy, defense matters, but like I said earlier in the year
"The best thing about Hanley Ramirez, is he’s the only free agent in this class who’s bat give him a prayer of being worth over 3.0 wins."
And he’s showing it this season. Don’t mess with Hanley, don’t worry, the Dodgers will be fine with him at SS.