When people dole out credit for the White Sox 33-15 run since the beginning of June, most of it usually goes to the pitchers. The team is headlined by John Danks, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and Matt Thornton, all of whom make it tough on opponents to score many runs. However, after having watched a lot of the White Sox in the last week, I think that the real key for their success is the guy that never gets any notice – Alexei Ramirez.
Chicago’s shortstop has flown under the radar, but he’s quietly putting together a pretty terrific season. As a guy who played second base as a rookie and made a lot of errors last year after moving to shortstop, it can be easy to see his +10 UZR and assume it’s mostly small sample noise. Watching him defend the position, though, he’s earning every bit of love that the metric is throwing his way.
In the half dozen or so games that I’ve seen the pale hose play over the last week, Ramirez has made three or four plays that were legitimately shocking. He has been routinely ranging into the hole at shortstop to get to balls that looked like sure hits off the bat, showing far more ability at the position than I assumed he had. I’m not saying he’s a true talent +15 defender at short, but he’s far from the defensive liability he was made out to be his rookie year. This kid can play shortstop, and play it really well.
Unlike a lot of the other good glove guys in the AL, though, Ramirez can hit too. He started the season on the wrong foot, putting up just a .241 wOBA in April, but his wOBA has jumped to .345 since then, including a scorching .422 this month. Even though he’s extremely aggressive at the plate, he’s wiry strong and makes good contact, allowing him to hit for enough average and power to offset the lack of walks.
The total package has been worth +2.5 WAR so far this year, putting him ahead of more heralded teammates like Buehrle and Paul Konerko. Ramirez has been the White Sox shining star in July and their unsung hero for most of 2010.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.