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.
|Player||Results||17 LA||16 LA||Difference|
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 Toles — about 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.
|Batter||#pitches||17 Heart%||16 Heart%||Diff|
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.
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.