Watching videos of Hanley Ramirez’s defense is a lot like using illegal drugs: a little bit is probably fine but too many will definitely kill you. Since taking over in left for the Red Sox this season, Ramirez has engendered strong opinions about his defensive abilities. To some, he’s horrible. Others say, no, he’s horrendous. Some others might point out that those are synonyms and the first two groups are being idiots anyway because Hanley is beyond horrendous and horrible and is, plainly, the worst. It is this third group of people who are correct.
He spent 11 seasons playing shortstop for two major-league teams. He’s an athlete. He has athlete skills. A free agent this past offseason, he explicitly wanted to come back to Boston, the team that signed him as a teenager, and to do so, he agreed to move to left field. With the exception of first base, probably, left is the least challenging of the defensive positions. Or rather, it’s not that it’s not challenging, it’s that mostly anyone who is decent enough to have played shortstop in the majors should be good at it. Should be. Except, in Hanley’s case, no. He’s not good. In fact, he’s bad. Very bad. But we don’t have to fall back on adverbs because this is FanGraphs and we have numbers!
The thing is, almost all of those numbers are big and start with a negative sign. It’s not like we’re debating the MVP here and Trout has 70,000 WAR and Cabrera has 69,999 WAR. The worst left fielder in baseball by UZR is Hanley at -15.2. The next worst is Chris Colabello at -9.1. The difference between Ramirez and Colabello is the difference between Colabello and Dalton Pompey, 13 guys up the list. Put another way, Ramirez has done as much damage to the Red Sox in left field (again, by UZR) as the second-worst left fielder and fourth-worst left fielder combined. If this were a good thing we’d say Ramirez was dominating the position, but it’s not so we can’t say that.
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