The finest moment in Jim Hendry’s general managing career still might be that July night in 2003 when he landed Aramis Ramirez. Henry wound up acquiring Kenny Lofton too for Jose Hernandez, a minor league pitcher, a promise of future employment to Dave Littlefield, and Bobby Hill (much to the chagrin of Randall Simon, this was not the animated character who adores fruit pies). The Cubs were a series of unfortunate events away from reaching the World Series, and the Pirates were the Pirates.
Six and a half years later, Ramirez is the only player from that trade still in the confines of Major League Baseball (Hill has carved out a niche in the Newark Bears, hitting .286/.417/.414 for his career). Some fans of the Cubs may very well wish he was elsewhere with his production so far in the 2010 season. He’s batting .155/.215/.278 with three home runs and three doubles to his name.
Some aspects of Ramirez’s struggles aren’t showing up in his slash line either, such as his strikeout rate which is approaching 26%. Ramirez’s career strikeout rate is hovering above 15%. One of the other underlying issues with Ramirez is his inability to hit fastballs. He’s giving away five runs per 100 fastballs, which is the worst in baseball. In fact, Juan Pierre is second worst, and he’s only giving away three runs per 100 fastballs seen.
Ramirez only has a .169 batting average on balls in play, but some would probably raise the question: is this bad luck or is it a slow bat? Call the sudden decaying run values against fastballs by Morgan Ensberg and Richie Sexson to the stand and there’s a battle brewing. Through Saturday’s affairs, Ramirez was swinging and missing at roughly 11% of the fastballs he’d seen and fouling about 19% off. In 2009, Ramirez found himself whiffing a little under 8% of the time and fouling off 27% of fastballs seen.
It’s probably nothing to worry about. Ramirez started the 2006 season with a similarly poor April against fastballs and chugged along to a .381 wOBA. Still, sharing a dishonorable accolade with recent leaders like Brian Giles and Kevin Millar can’t do much to inspire confidence alongside the slow start.