Hanley Ramirez Deserves More Praise

Entering the season, Hanley Ramirez caused plenty of debate across New England. After signing a four-year, $88 million deal to rejoin the Red Sox, Ramirez delivered a sub-par season in 2015, leading many to question his future in Boston. Hanley hit just .249 last year with 19 home runs and only 12 doubles. He was also one of the worst defenders in baseball, as judged by a slew of metrics. Therefore, little was expected of him entering 2016.

Hanley Ramirez

Unlike his under-performing sidekick Pablo Sandoval, Ramirez was willing to make sacrifices to prolong his Red Sox career. Hanley recommitted to a winter training program and agreed to move positions yet again. First base became his new home and fans at least appreciated the effort. Nevertheless, few dared expect anything other than league average performance at best in 2016, with many bracing for something far worse. Thus, his strong resurgence in recent months has been a pleasant surprise.

The Resurgence of Hanley Ramirez

With David Ortiz soaking up much of the attention, Hanley Ramirez has found the time and space to rediscover himself. While the power numbers of old may never return, Ramirez has been a steady contributor at the plate. As August rounds into view, he’s currently hitting .283 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI. Ramirez has already surpassed his RBI total from last season with over two months remaining, while his on-base percentage has risen by seventy points.

Defensively, Hanley has also been decent. He ranks fifteenth among first basemen in Ultimate Zone Rating and has made only three errors all season. Of course, first base isn’t the most demanding of positions, especially for a former shortstop, but what Hanley Ramirez is currently providing far exceeds what many expected from him. And that should be praised.

Aside from the numbers, Ramirez just seems to have rediscovered some of his old spark. In one game this week, he hit three mammoth home runs, becoming the first Red Sox player to do so at Fenway Park since Kevin Millar in 2004. Those moments of inspiration may still be fleeting for Hanley Ramirez, but they’re far more frequent than last season and are now backed by a solid baseline performance.

Is Hanley Ramirez an elite player right now? No, probably not. A Wins Above Replacement score of 1 ranks him thirteenth among first baseman. The Red Sox are still destined to overpay grossly on this contract. However, it’s impossible to overstate the improvement from last season, when Fangraphs WAR adjudged him to be the third-worst position player in baseball.

Why Hanley Ramirez Deserves More Support

On a spiritual level, Hanley Ramirez deserves our appreciation here. With criticism poring in from every quarter, he identified and made the necessary changes to justify his continued inclusion on this team. When everybody doubted him, Ramirez swallowed some pride and worked hard to win back support. Deep down we must admire that from a human standpoint. The guy has worked his butt off to make Red Sox Nation happy, and that effort should be acknowledged.

We were all quick to chastise Hanley Ramirez when things didn’t go well, and perhaps he deserved it. Even now, nothing is perfect, and there are still flaws in the game of a man paid to be flawless. But instead of getting carried away and looking too far back or forward, we should take some time to stay in the moment and appreciate his determination to salvage some respectability.

Hanley Ramirez Will Do Anything For The Team

Hanley Ramirez  by Jen RoyleHanley Ramirez started his major league career with the Boston Red Sox, and he just may end it there as well.  But here’s hoping that the newly acquired infielder turned outfielder has not just re-entered the “oh no, what did Hanley do now” era.

People often ask, “Who is your favorite player to interview?” The answer? Mariano Rivera, Joe Maddon, David Price. People love to ask, “Who is the worst player you’ve ever interviewed? It’s the same answer every time:   Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson.  And when people ask, “Which player is the most annoying hanley ramirezand immature?” The answer has been, Hanley Ramirez.

Oh boy.

Let’s just say that the Red Sox front office has done an amazing job of signing “good character” guys over the past couple of years. In fact, it was that approach and philosophy during the winter after the 2012 season that propelled the Red Sox to a championship in 2013. The shocker of a signing that year, however, was A.J. Pierzynski. Never met one person in Major League Baseball who likes the guy. And though Ben Cherington and John Farrell did a bang-up job with the clubhouse, they dropped the ball with AJP. Did they do the same with Hanley?

And I know what you’re thinking; Manny Ramirez was a train wreck in the clubhouse and the Sox won with him. True. But they were tortured along the way. Is that fair to the 24 other guys, coaches and trainers?

Let’s use Carl Crawford as another example. His teammates didn’t love the fact that he didn’t feel he “fit it,” and we all know fans didn’t appreciate his lack of love for the great city of Boston. Word is that Terry Francona and DeMarlo Hale spent the majority of their time coddling Crawford at his locker, giving him daily pep talks to help him adjust to the tough Boston transition. That is nothing less than wasting the time of the manager and coaches. Let’s hope Hanley only bothers David Ortiz with those conversations, right?

When Ramirez agreed to terms with the Red Sox, Yawkey Way Report reached out to several of his former Marlins teammates for comment.  One player responded, “Good luck.” And the other replied with a simple, “Turd.” These were not shocking responses because Hanley can be best described in two words: extremely immature.

Those who know him have said that he was lazy and often “didn’t feel like playing.” Not good. Back in May of 2010, his manager at the time Fredi Gonzalez actually pulled Hanley from a game for not hustling. How did Hanley retaliate? He publicly ripped Gonzalez – saying he lost respect for the manager — and some of his teammates.

“We got a lot of people dogging it after ground balls,” Ramirez said in 2010. “They don’t apologize.”

Yes, Hanley was asked to apologize to the team but he refused to. It eventually was reported that he did surrender and apologize, but other sources say that the apology never really happened. Immature AND stubborn. Not good.

For $88M and a $22M vesting option, what exactly are the Red Sox getting? Well, for one, let’s be honest, they are getting an extraordinary talent in Hanley. Nobody will ever take that away from him. In fact, one of his former teammates who “couldn’t stand” Hanley justified his distain by saying, “the kid has no idea how talented he is. He just needs to grow up… and it’s frustrating to watch. I wish I had his talent.”

Hanley RamirezStat-wise, Ramirez was the 2006 National League Rookie of the Year and also won the NL batting title in 2009 with a .342 batting average. He batted .283 with 13 home runs and 71 RBI in 128 games last year for the Dodgers and is now a lifetime .300 hitter.  It’s impossible to doubt what he can do for the Red Sox offensively.
Ramirez is now 31-years-old and is married with three kids. There’s no denying he seems to be thrilled with his new uniform. In fact, he had no problem leaving shortstop and even added that he was willing to play any position — even left field where he’s never played before. Hopefully this, “I’ll do anything for the team” attitude from Hanley is permanent.

Is Ramirez mature enough to handle playing in Boston? His Marlins days have come and gone, and we all have a past or a piece of our past of which we aren’t proud. Because of that, here’s hoping we wipe the slate clean with Hanley and respect his fresh start.

But what about this question: When Hanley signed with the Red Sox, he mentioned several times, “David Ortiz is texting me pretty much every day and telling me what I’ve got to do, what I’ve got to change.”

Why is Ortiz texting him so much? Why does Ortiz have to tell Hanley what to do? And what is Ortiz telling Hanley he has to change? Hmm…

“I’ve grown up,” Ramirez said at his introductory press conference. “Boston is like home for me.”

Let’s hope you have, Hanley. Or it won’t be home for long… again.

Defense is a Real Problem for Hanley Ramirez

When the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez to a four-year, $88 million contract this past offseason, many people were surprised. Then, once the Sox chose to transition Hanley from shortstop to Fenway’s notorious left field, that surprise turned to worry. Even during his peak years, Ramirez was never great defensively, so to introduce him to a totally new, and equally challenging, position at the age of 31 was a major risk; a risk which, so far, hasn’t really paid off.

While Hanley has been a strong offensive force, his defense has been particularly dreadful, as judged by a slew of advanced metrics. In Total Fielding Runs per Year, for Hanley Ramirezinstance, Ramirez has a -27 rating, essentially meaning that, extrapolated to represent 135 games, his current defensive performance is 27 runs below average. Moreover, Hanley has thus far accumulated -6.1 Range Runs, meaning he is the second-worst fielder in all of baseball at getting to balls hit in his vicinity. And finally, in Ultimate Zone Rating, a catch-all defensive stat incorporating a player’s range, arm and tendency to commit errors, Ramirez has a -7.7 score, which, again, is the second-worst in the Major Leagues.

Basically, the stats tell us that, for all his offensive greatness (10 home runs and 22 RBI so far), Hanley is, at this point, having no more impact on the Red Sox’ fortunes than would a replacement level player. According to Baseball-Reference, his 0.9 offensive WAR is counterbalanced by his -1 defensive WAR, to create a player who is currently performing no better, or worse, than a stand-in scrub who could be signed for the Major League minimum salary of $507,500. Considering Boston has at least $88 million tied up in Hanley Ramirez, such a situation is very concerning.

Now, I’m not a total believer in WAR as the ultimate, definitive indicator of baseball performance. After all, from a fan’s perspective, you’d want to see your team sign a superstar such as Hanley Ramirez over a replacement level throwaway such as Junior Lake or Odubel Herrera. But, to a certain extent, I agree that such advanced statistics outline a general trend of a player’s impact and, in the case of Ramirez, that trend is not good. In fact, his defense, or lack thereof, is damaging his value and hurting the Red Sox considerably, to the point where you have to consider making a change.

It’s hard to imagine such a stat-inclined front office as the Red Sox’ allowing the experiment to continue without success for much longer. Whispers about a possible promotion for Rusney Castillo are already surfacing, while Jackie Bradley Jr., a defensive whiz, is back with the big club and looking for outfield playing time.

In order to move Ramirez from left field, however, he must have somewhere to go. Shortstop, his previous position, is already occupied by Xander Bogaerts, while first base and designated hitter are also filled by Mike Napoli and David Ortiz, respectively.

Hanley Ramirez

Therefore, the Red Sox may soon face a huge dilemma, in that Hanley Ramirez, their most potent power hitter, is signed through at least 2018, but perhaps lacks the skills to play adequate defense anywhere on the diamond.

Furthermore, Hanley is approaching an age where most players decline, so what defensive prowess he ever had will be further damaged, making for an uncertain, and often awkward, adventure in the years to come.

How Many Home Runs Will Hanley Ramirez Hit?

Hanley Ramirez

On Wednesday night, Hanley Ramirez received a flat, 78-mph knuckleball from R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, and, with one trademark, helmet-dislodging swing, launched a long home run over the Green Monster in left field. It was the 10th homer of the season for Ramirez, tying him with Seattle’s Nelson Cruz for the Major League lead, and equaling David Ortiz’s 2006 record for most round-trippers by a Red Sock before May 1st.

Naturally, when a player achieves something only done once before in franchise history, Hanley Ramirezpeople begin to take notice. In the case of Ramirez, fans instantly began to wonder about the sustainability of his incredible pace, with many attempting to project just how many home runs he could possibly hit this season.

On a purely mathematical level, Hanley is currently on pace to hit 77 home runs, through a full 162-game slate. This, of course, would break the all-time single season record of 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001. Obviously, that just isn’t going to happen. Eventually, pitchers will adjust to Ramirez, who, undoubtedly, will experience slumps throughout the season, as is the failure-based nature of baseball.

Moreover, Hanley has typically struggled to remain healthy for a full season and, in recent years, the left fielder has required occasional days off to rest his ageing body. For instance, in the past four full seasons, Ramirez has played 115 games on average, due to injury and subsequently cautious management of his playing time.

Interestingly, at his current pace, Hanley would hit 54 home runs through 115 games played, which, of course, would equal the Red Sox single-season record, set by Ortiz in 2006. However, such a figure seems unlikely in the long run of a Major League season. Ramirez can be a very streaky hitter, and his aggressive approach may lead to more strikeouts once pitchers begin to catch up in mid-season.

But, in the spirit of fair argument, it is important to point out that, through April, Hanley showed a large increase in line-drive percentage (33%) compared with his career average (21%), and currently has a batting average right around .300 despite a BABIP in the low .230s. This suggests that, in the early going, Ramirez has been a flat-out better hitter than what he was in recent seasons; perhaps better in April 2015 than he has been at any point throughout his career.

Hanley Ramirez

Furthermore, 30.3% of Hanley’s fly balls this season have resulted in home runs, which, considering the league average of 9.5%, is quite astonishing, and indicates his fresh determination to take advantage of the famous left field wall at Fenway, which can convert even the laziest of flies into a homer. Whilst, overall, Ramirez has hit better on the road this year, his swing has seemingly been transformed due to the temptation of the Green Monster, with 80% of his home runs so far going to left field, compared with 53% last season, which he spent with the Dodgers.

Therefore, where pitchers adjusting and Hanley slumping may detract from his ultimate home run total in 2015, a new pull approach and the friendly confines of Fenway may make up the difference. Thus, while Bonds’ record won’t come under threat, and Ortiz’s franchise mark should remain intact, Hanley Ramirez, health-permitting, may well hit between 45 and 50 home runs this year, which would be one of the top five home run-hitting seasons in Red Sox history.

What About Bryce Brentz?

BRYCE BRENTZ

Going 9-for-25 in Spring Training and 8-for-26 in the big leagues last year as a September call-up, Bryce Brentz showed plenty of promise while he was up with the Boston Red Sox in 2014, but will be given little opportunity this season.
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Slated to start off 2015 in AAA Pawtucket, Brentz likely will not be given much of a shot to crack a spot on the Red Sox Opening Day Roster because the outfield is so crowded as it is. As of now, the team already needs to trade an outfielder before Opening Day (most likely Allen Craig) and send their starting center fielder for the bulk of last season down tobryce brentz the Minors (Jackie Bradley Jr.).

Away from all of the competition, Brentz will be able to prove why he deserves to play in the big leagues— if he is able to stay healthy this season. These past two years, he has been limited to just 145 Minor League games, including rehab, but he has shown off excellent power.
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Power is the reason why the Red Sox drafted Brentz in the first place and, given that he has smacked 29 home runs in his last 145 MiLB contests, his power is still a serious threat and could help the Red Sox out down the road this season.

Against lefties is where Bryce Brentz thrives. The former high school football linebacker dominates lefties and blasted eight home runs in 73 at-bats against southpaws for the Paw Sox last season. Historically speaking, he has always hit significantly better off of lefties, making him a viable option as a platoon player. After all, he did collect four hits in seven at-bats off of lefties in the big leagues last season.
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If Brentz is able to show off his power and stay healthy in a full season not only should he be able to blast 30 home runs for the Paw Sox next season, but he should find himself in consideration for a job as a platoon player. Since Boston is filled with talented outfielders, if he is not given a shot in Boston, there would be other teams interested in his services.

Had the Red Sox not signed Hanley Ramirez, his chances of cracking the roster would be better since Daniel Nava, who would have been the starting outfielder, struggles greatly against southpaws— he has hit just .159 off them last year.

Sandoval, Ramirez Agree to Terms with Red Sox

hanley ramirezAfter nine long years of being Hanley-free, the Boston Red Sox will be re-united with their former top prospect if all goes according to plan. Joining him will be third baseman Pablo Sandoval who has been a member of the San Francisco Giants his entire career.
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The 30-year-old Ramirez agreed to terms with the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. A four year deal worth $88 million is the contract according to multiple reports.

Ramirez’ tenor with the Boston Red Sox big league club was brief to say the least. He had two at-bats in two games late in the year back in 2005 — he struck out in both at-bats. Before the season, he was rated the tenth best prospect in all of baseball.
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That off-season, he was dealt to the then Florida Marlins along with Anibal Sanchez and two other prospects in exchange for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and Guillermo Mota. Beckett and Lowell were key pieces of the Red Sox 2007 World Series championship, but some people still regretted the traded given Hanley’s success in the big leagues.

A career .300/.373/.500 hitter in ten big league season, Ramirez, who primarily plays shortstop, also has experience at third and has expressed a willingness to play left field if necessary. He is versatile, but a career -4.0 WAR makes him a liability in the field — not a help.
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Right now, it appears as though he would start in left field for the Red Sox as the team also agreed to terms with Pablo Sandoval which seems like overkill. If the Red Sox do indeed sign both him and Pablo Sandoval, Ramirez would end up moving positions. Getting both Sandoval and Ramirez to sign contracts would be nice for the Red Sox, but don’t forget Xander Bogaerts still exists.

For Boston, it appears as though they are getting the better end of the Ramirez deal. $18 million a year for a guy who finished second in the MVP voting back in 2009 seems like a bargain.

Hopefully, Hanley Ramirez does better in Boston than former Tampa Bay Rays superstar Carl Crawford.
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As for Sandoval, it seems certain he will man the hot corner— for now. He lacks the athleticism of Ramirez to roam the outfield making a corner infield spot the right fit.

Sandoval is set to earn more than Ramirez as he agreed to a five year deal worth $100 million after hitting .279 with a .324 OBP in 157 games for the Giants while clubbing 16 home runs. Known for his bat versus right-handed pitching, the switch-hitter should stick to the left side of the plate where he shines.
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After these deals are finalized, the Red Sox need to focus on pitching. They need two starting pitchers to help anchor their rotation after a sub-par performance in 2014.

You’re next Jon Lester, watch out!