Painting a New Picture of Jose Ramirez

In your mind, you might have an idea of the relative strengths of the Indians’ Jose Ramirez. He’s what many might term a “good little player” — and that’s not a comment on his 5-foot-8 stature. It’s about the fact that he can run a little, hit for a little power, make a little contact, and play a few positions. Useful, but maybe not a star.

Then you might look at his stats from last year and find yourself surprised that he was nearly a five-win player. Then you might look at his stats from this year and find yourself surprised that he’s now a power-hitter. For the player himself, it required a little recalibration of his own approach. And that’s forced a recalibration on us — and on pitchers, as well.

At LaunchAngleGraphs, we just report all members of Team Elevate dutifully. So it’s no surprise to hear that Jose Ramirez has raised his launch angle more than everyone save 25 players in baseball. But by moving from an average launch angle of 12.9 degreess to 17.8 degrees, Ramirez has pushed into the “line drive range,” or between 15-25 degrees. If you focus on the guys this year who’ve both elevated the most and pushed their angles into that range, the list gets smaller.

Launching Into Line Drive Angles
Player Results 17 LA 16 LA Difference
John Jaso 49 23.6 7.0 16.6
Miguel Montero 35 21.7 9.0 12.7
Yonder Alonso 73 21.1 10.3 10.8
Brandon Guyer 36 23.2 12.8 10.4
Yoenis Cespedes 50 24.6 16.4 8.2
Travis d’Arnaud 48 15.6 8.4 7.2
Rougned Odor 105 19.8 13.0 6.8
Jose Bautista 79 21.1 14.9 6.2
Nick Hundley 45 16.4 10.5 5.9
Josh Harrison 94 17.3 11.5 5.8
Jed Lowrie 100 16.6 11.2 5.4
Eduardo Escobar 45 20.1 14.8 5.3
Byron Buxton 52 18.8 13.5 5.3
Curtis Granderson 85 23.5 18.4 5.1
Wilmer Flores 47 23.3 18.4 4.9
Jose Ramirez 95 17.8 12.9 4.9
SOURCE: Statcast
Results = total batted balls.
LA = average launch angle.

Considering that these things always exist on a spectrum, there’s an argument to be made that John Jaso has gone too far with his launch-angle adjustment. So far this year, 7% of his batted balls have possessed launch angles over 30 degrees, which is 23rd worst among the 270 hitters with 10 balls in play. Those angles aren’t ideal for most hitters. But by contrast, Ramirez has improved his angle more modestly. He now sits closer to the middle of the line-drive range and hits only 5% of his batted balls over 30 degrees.

When looking at a change in results, you can look at how the player has changed, but you can also look at how the book on the player has changed. Like Andrew Tolesabout whom I wrote yesterday — Ramirez is seeing fewer fastballs this year. Only 32 batters of 193 are seeing fewer fastballs this year compared to last year.

Not only is Ramirez seeing fewer fastballs, though, he’s also seeing fewer fastballs in the middle of the plate. As hitters begin to reliably exhibit power, pitchers nibble more to avoid the big fly. We’re seeing pitchers (comparatively) more scared of Jose Ramirez this year than any regular in baseball by this metric.

Fewer Pitches on the Heart
Batter #pitches 17 Heart% 16 Heart% Diff
Jose Ramirez 320 16.6% 22.8% -6.2%
Stephen Piscotty 395 15.7% 21.5% -5.8%
Trevor Plouffe 485 18.1% 23.4% -5.2%
Josh Harrison 486 20.2% 24.8% -4.6%
Danny Valencia 441 15.9% 20.4% -4.5%
Eugenio Suarez 524 17.9% 22.3% -4.4%
Chris Owings 429 19.8% 24.2% -4.3%
Carlos Santana 369 17.1% 21.4% -4.3%
Keon Broxton 404 19.3% 23.4% -4.1%
Ryon Healy 484 19.0% 23.0% -4.0%
SOURCE: Bill Petti
Heart% = pitches down the heart of the plate

It’s perhaps not foolproof as a metric — pitchers might avoid the heart of the plate because the hitter has a bad sense of the strike zone, not just because they have power. But with Chris Owings (now healthy), Keon Broxton, Ryon Healy and Stephen Piscotty (showing more power than they were projected into), and Josh Harrison (fellow launch-angle improver) on the list, it does help complete the picture.

That picture? It’s no longer of a super utility guy who can do a little bit of everything. This is a power-hitting third baseman, a well-rounded player worth respecting, whether you happen to be on your couch or on the mound facing him.

We hoped you liked reading Painting a New Picture of Jose Ramirez by Eno Sarris!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

newest oldest most voted
GoNYGoNYGoGo
Member
Member
GoNYGoNYGoGo

Great stat, and very illustrative use of this relatively new source of data.

Glad to note that 4 Mets (Flores, Granderson, d’Arnaud, and Cespedes) are on this list. Perhaps the Met’s hitting instructor (or even the organization) is pushing this new religion of launch angle?

johnsnot20
Member
johnsnot20

Kevin Long is the king of this stuff, see Murphy, Daniel. That’s why the Yankees went out and got Granderson when they did. They knew he pulled a large amount of air balls, and hit all his other stuff up the middle. They got Granderson and told him to stop hitting grounder up the middle and pull everything in the air. Boom 40 homers.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

Deleted

vivalajeter
Member
vivalajeter

Before you get too glad, you should check out their performance though.

Last year Flores has a 112 wRC+ and this year it’s 79.
Grander was at 114 wRC+ last year, and he’s down to 24 (!!) this year.