The Other SS Ramirez

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.

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It’s about time somebody noticed.

Alexei led the league in Defensive Runs Saved last time I checked at +21.

This whole transformation started when Teahen got hurt and Vizquel took over at 3B. Before that, Alexei looked very similar to what he was in 2009. Vizquel, being a Spanish speaker and a veteran who could teach a young player a thing or two might have really helped Ramirez gain focus. I rarely see him screw up routine plays anymore. He no longer makes lollipop throws to first and in my mind he’s become the most reliable fielder on the team. While last year, I was nervous as hell when he fielded the last ball in Buehrle’s perfect game. The improvement has been amazing and it’s good to see somebody like Ramirez overcome the mental hurdles and truly utilize his talents.


Ozzie was asked about that. He said the only man responsible for Ramirez’s improvement is Joey Cora. Ozzie may be prone to exaggeration, he may like to lie to the press and he may be pushing his buddy for a manager’s job but infield defense is one of Cora’s responsibilities on the staff and Joey’s been working with him since he got here.

At the game now. That play in the third was sick. I think it was Smoak or Branyan running but I still didn’t think there was any way to throw him out. Alexei got him easily.


Joey Cora and Jose Oquendo seem to have a similar reputation and future. Both are noted for their nack at helping players with defense, and both seem to be on the list of “future managers”.

I’m guessing Joey Cora also speaks Spanish. *grin*

My guess is Ramirez has been hearing “defense, defense, defense” from Vizquel and Cora (and getting little positioning and mechanics reinforcers consistently).

I would love to see Ramirez be a serious value at SS, and Beckham to return as solid player in 2011. With Rios in center, that goes a long way to being “strong up the middle”. It would be atough trio for other teams to try and match in value.