Hanley Gives Dodgers Life on Left Side

Dodgers shortstops in 2012: .229/.283/.317, .272 wOBA, 70 wRC+. 20th in baseball. Dodgers third basemen in 2012: .248/.321/.355, .296 wOBA, 85 wRC+. 21st in baseball.

The reasons the Dodgers desired Hanley Ramirez are readily apparent. Even if Ramirez is no longer the shortstop force that defined his early career as a Florida Marlin, even if Ramirez is just the player he’s been the last two seasons, the Dodgers have improved greatly on the left side of the infield.

A look at Ramirez’s peripheral stats would suggest that not much has changed since 2010, a year in which Ramirez hit .300/.378/.475, good for a 129 wRC+. Ramirez is walking a little less and striking out a little more in 2012, and he’s hitting for just as much power. But just like 2011 — the year he posted a 96 wRC+, the only sub-average mark of his career — the singles aren’t falling in. Ramirez had a .327 BABIP in 2010, then a career low. In 2011 that dropped to .275, and this season it’s down to .271.

His BABIP is down at least 80 points from his career marks on both liners and grounders. It’s down at least 40 points to each the pull, center and opposite fields. And it’s down against both lefties and righties.

So then, the question: is it luck, or is Ramirez just not hitting the ball as hard? There are signs of a real change in Ramirez’s skill level. ESPN Stats and Info presented an excellent graphic showing Ramirez struggling to hit inside pitches — after hitting well over .300 on inside fastballs in 2009 and 2010, he’s down below .200 over the past two seasons. In addition, after hitting 21.5 runs better than average against sliders and curves prior to 2010, he’s been 3.4 runs below average against those pitches the past two seasons.

But we’re still talking about just 553 balls in play over the past two seasons. Any hit robbed by weather or park or a great fielding play is still knocking just under two full points off his BABIP. It would take just 15 more hits out of those 553 balls in play to get to a .300 BABIP. Then we’re talking about a wOBA in the .340-.355 range instead of his actual mediocre .315-.330 marks.

Luckily for the Dodgers, though, anything above what Hanley has done already this season — a .329 wOBA, 104 wRC+ — is gravy. Hanley’s 4.2 wRAA so far beats Los Angeles’s third base production to date by 17 runs and beats their shortstop production by 20 runs. Juan Uribe, Dee Gordon, Justin Sellers, Adam Kennedy — Ramirez is a vast improvement over this motley crew of left-side laggards.

The Dodgers are somehow just a half-game out of playoff contention despite dealing with myriad injury issues along with their incompetence on the left side of the infield. For the price — a starter with potential but one that will take some work for the Marlins — Los Angeles was unlikely to find a better option. Aramis Ramirez would have cost a similar amount of future value as well as cash, and the Padres are asking for a huge return in exchange for Chase Headley.

This Hanley Ramirez is no longer a superstar, but he fills the holes of the Los Angeles Dodgers nearly perfectly. If the Dodgers are going to make a run at the playoffs, they need contributions from the left side of their infield, and Ramirez makes that a possibility again.




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27 Responses to “Hanley Gives Dodgers Life on Left Side”

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  1. Brandon says:

    Why?

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  2. Anon says:

    So then, the question: is it luck, or is Ramirez just not hitting the ball as hard?

    Or he isn’t running as quickly. The media has made his lack of effort well known.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Or the media has made a well known narrative about a lack of effort.

      +18 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • B N says:

      I assumed he wasn’t running as fast because he’s just older and slower. I mean, they didn’t move him out of the SS spot because he was too lazy to shag grounders. They moved him because he didn’t have the speed and range to play the position well anymore.

      Here’s a table that shows what I’m talking about
      Year SB CS BsR
      2009 27 8 3.2
      2010 32 12 2.6
      2011 20 10 0.8
      2012 14 4 0.7

      Particularly in 2011, he was slow-slow-slow compared to his prior levels. At present, he’s probably on pace for something like 25 SB/10 CS. Losing a step can definitely translate to a lower BABIP, as the difference between a hit and an out is often just a foot.

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  3. Zigs says:

    It is amazing how bad the left side of their infield is. The Juan Uribe jokes are awesome though. It is perplexing how someone can play that bad and still be an option.

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  4. Slats says:

    What do you call two Doyers fans playing basketball?

    Juan on Juan.

    -14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Fletch says:

    Racism? Check. Unfunny joke? Check. Nice work, Slats.

    Anyway, nice article. As a Dodgers fan (not named Juan), I really hope the change of scenery does Hanley some good. On the other hand, if Hanley does catch fire it helps Ned Coletti keep his job. Can’t win them all, I guess.

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    • Jay says:

      Fletch,

      Good retort…

      As for Uncle Ned – I know Kasten has publically given him a vote of confidence, however there was some vagueness in his comments in so far as re-signing him to a long term K.

      I could only hope that Colletti’s contract is allowed to lapse and the Dodgers go a different (more statistically attuned) direction – but this almost presupposes the Dodgers collapse…

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      • ND says:

        i heard Coletti mention the “vote of confidence” on KNBR (SF Giants’ flagship) this morning but i don’t believe it. Too many bad signings. Plus, with their future payrolls they’ll want to sign a top GM, not just some run of the mill dude.

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  6. buddyglass says:

    So what happens when Gordon comes of the DL? Is it Gordon at SS and Ramirez at 3B or Ramirez at SS and Uribe at 3B?

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    • Cidron says:

      or Gordon in AAA

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    • chuckb says:

      Apparently Mattingly is going to play Hanley at SS — where he’s beyond awful — until Gordon, baseball’s worst player so far this year, returns. At that point, Hanley moves to 3B and Gordon retakes SS.

      Good acquisitions can somehow still be negated by terrible managing.

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  7. John John says:

    So what’s gonna happen to Justin Sellers???? Will he get traded or back to the minors?

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  8. Angelsjunky says:

    Does Hanley improve the Dodgers? Sure. But at what cost? He’s essentially a league average hitter with poor defense making $38 million or so over the next two and (almost) a half years. And that isn’t including his “clubhouse presence.”

    That said, if the Dodgers are looking at it as a high-risk/high-reward trade, then I can get with it. Hanley was one of the best players in baseball for a few years there, a truly dynamic talent. Someone in that org needs to figure out what happened to him, because it is very rare for a superstar to go from 7.4 WAR to 4.6 to 1.3 in ages 25-27 and then not improve in the following year to at least stabilize at the 4-5 WAR level.

    Is Hanley now a 2 WAR player? I don’t know, but the signs aren’t encouraging. I can only imagine that the Dodgers see something in him that isn’t reflected in the stats.

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    • TiensyGohan says:

      A league average hitter at SS is not a 2 WAR player?

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      • Angelsjunky says:

        Misunderstanding – I should have written “ONLY a 2 WAR player”, meaning is that all he’s got in him or can he return to at least his 2010 4-5 WAR form? My point is that the signs are not encouraging that he’s anything more than a 2 WAR player.

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    • The Artful Dodger says:

      I remember when Matt Kemp was a league average hitter with bad defense and bad “clubhouse presence”. That’s not to say the same things that went right for Kemp will go right for Hanley, but for the price of a potential mid-rotation starter, a position of some depth (Kershaw, Billingsley, Lilly, Capuano and Harang are all signed through next year, plus RDLR potentially) and a minor league reliever…there’s not that much risk. Yes, there is the contract, but if the Dodgers are going to be what they should be in terms of a large market franchise…it’s really just money. It shouldn’t hurt them too badly, and it’s a relatively short-term risk at 2.5 years.

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      • Angelsjunky says:

        I hear you, although the two aren’t a good comparison. In 2010 Kemp was a 25-year old underachiever who hadn’t quite put it all together, but on the right side of the developmental trajectory and young enough to take his game up a notch (which he did, and then some, in 2011). Hanley, on the other hand, is a 28-year old who declined a couple years in a row from age 25 to 26 to 27, and seems to have stabilized at his current level for two years now. This doesn’t mean he cannot improve – he’s young enough, and was good enough, to be worth taking a flier on – but that he’s in a completely different situation than Kemp was a couple years ago.

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