Saturday, February 17, 2018
Even in Good Health, Hanley Ramirez Can't Carry Red Sox Offense
Hanley Ramirez was never a true power hitter, so don't expect him to become one this season.
Hanley Ramirez eschewed heavy-weight training this offseason in favor of using bands. As a result, Ramirez has dropped 15 pounds and says he has much greater flexibility.
Now 34 years old and coming off shoulder surgery, Ramirez hopes he can return to the player he was in 2016, when he hit 30 homers and had a career-high 111 RBI with Boston.
The Red Sox also hope the first baseman/designated hitter can help carry the offense this season. But here's the thing: Ramirez was never a true power hitter. Before joining the Red Sox, Ramirez had hit as many as 30 homers just once in nine seasons.
Hanley's game was built around speed and hitting. He led the majors with 125 runs in 2008 and won the National League batting title in 2009 with a .342 average. He also stole 51 bags in back-to-back seasons (2006, 2007).
That player is long gone.
After scoring at least 100 runs in four consecutive seasons, 2006-2009, Ramirez has never done it again. The closest he's come in the last seven years was in 2016, when he scored 81 runs for Boston.
Ramirez batted at least .300 in four consecutive seasons (2007-2010) and he hit a stellar .345 in 2013. However, sandwiched around that outstanding season, Ramirez has posted batting averages of .243, .257, .249 and .242. Having your batting average decline by 100 points is like falling off a cliff.
Lastly, while Ramirez was once a genuine stolen base threat, he has't swiped more than 14 bags in the last five seasons. Hanley's speed has gone away, as it generally does for most players as they age.
However, his on-base skills have also declined measurably, right along with his batting average. Hanley has posted an on-base percentage of at least .350 just once in his three seasons with Boston and just three times over the last seven years. Players who don't get on base a good clip don't score regularly.
Power is usually the last thing to go for a big league hitter, yet Hanley has never been a genuine power hitter. Since 2011, he's gone entire seasons with just 10, 13 and 19 homers.
This is the reality the Red Sox are facing as Ramirez is set to begin his fourth season in Boston. All of the 34-year-old's greatest skills have severely declined and the one skill the Red Sox want from him, power, is something that was never his strong suit from the beginning.
Unless band work proves to be the fountain of youth for Ramirez, the Red Sox will do all they can to make sure that he doesn't make 497 plate appearances this season.
That's the magic number that automatically vests his $22 million contract for 2019.