Revisiting Erasmo Ramirez

In mid-June of last season, I reminded you readers not to forget about Erasmo Ramirez. At that time, he was still simmering at Triple-A after recovering from some mysterious arm injury. But, he posted his highest strikeout rate at the level and paired it with his always good control. So concerns about his health disappeared and it was time to look forward to his imminent promotion.

That promotion eventually did come, though it took a bit longer than I had anticipated. His first start with the Mariners came about a month later in mid-July. Unfortunately, his skills not only took a dive from minor league levels, but also from where he sat in 2012. His 2012 Major League performance is what put him on our radar to begin with.

That intriguing debut was driven by a strong 11.3% SwStk% and excellent near 64% F-Strike%. Both those rates fell to just 8.8% and 59.2%, respectively, in 2013. So what changed? Let’s check out his pitch mix:

Erasmo Ramirez Pitch Mix

His slider and changeup usage essentially flip-flopped. That’s quite the head-scratcher though because Ramirez’s change had been his best pitch. It was a serious weapon over the small 2012 sample, as it generated an impressive 25.9% SwStk%. While he did induce a lower rate of swinging strikes with the pitch in 2013, it remained pretty darn good.

His slider was also extremely effective in 2012, generating a 22.4% SwStk% itself. But, that dropped significantly this year, to just below 10%. So oddly, he lost his slider, yet decided to use it more often.

This actually presents an opportunity for upside. Either he realizes his mistake and switches back to his pitch mix from 2012, relying more on the changeup than the slider. Or, he fixes what plagued his slider and gets it back closer to its 2012 effectiveness.

We already know he has a killer changeup, so if he could bring his slider back and make it a plus pitch again, then he should boost that strikeout rate. Aside from inducing fewer swinging strikes with the pitch, he also threw it inside the strike zone less frequently. So nothing went right with the pitch, yet he threw it 18% of the time!

Assuming his HR/FB rate neutralizes, he’ll once again be a nice speculative pick in drafts. If his slider does return, he’ll become mixed-league relevant once again.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

7 Responses to “Revisiting Erasmo Ramirez”

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  1. Balthazar says:

    ‘Rewriting Erasmo Ramirez’: an opportunity missed, Mike.

    I wonder if the slider usage was called for by the coaching staff. I didn’t hear that, and I follow the Mariners pretty closely. Erasmo’s walk rate, which had always been excellent, took a big kick up, in part it would seem due to missing the zone with his slider. Nothing really seemed to add up about how Ramirez was being used or what he was using, so there’s more to this story I have a sense. I still think he’s underrated, and can be quite an effective starter at the big league level. Sometimes, it’s important to just let a guy use his best stuff rather than ‘fix him.’ But I think Erasmo will have to get dealt to another team to get a real chance.

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    • Cybo says:

      It could be possible they (his coaches) wanted him to work on his slider and essentially treat his few starts in late Aug/Sept as spring training games.

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    • Tom says:

      I agree there seems to be something more to the story, just wish I knew what it was. My guesses are injury versus resistance to coaching or a combination. I could dream up a scenario where his arm started balking at slider usage and its effectiveness dropped, yet he continued to want to throw it.

      It would be great if we had stats on the rate at which pitchers shook off catcher pitch calls, seems like that would be easy to obtain. Not saying the answer is there, but would be interesting additional info in assessing mysteries such as Erasmo, where neither the club nor Erasmo is open about what is really going on.

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  2. algionfriddo says:

    For whatever reason it would seem Erasmo needs a change of scenery along with Micheal Saunders. Both could be very useful pieces for a club willing to give them better instruction and opportunity. Unlikely either will get that in Seattle as both are used grudgingly at best and have been fazed out of any future picture.

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  3. Wobatus says:

    Both you and balthazar suggest Ramirez may need a change of scenery but I am not sure I have followed it closely enough to get that. He pitched well in his debut in 2012, had some injury, stayed in AAA a bit, then was worse last year, but hardly to the point it suggests he has been hindered by Seattle. he is still pretty young, and i don’t get the sense he was used grudgingly.

    You add in Saunders as an example of this, but he’s been given many opportunities and has improved somewhat, albeit last year he fell back slightly. Maybe they’d blossom elsewhere, but they seem like they have had fairly normal careers given their abilities. Given that Ackley, Smoak, Montero and Saunders have not become what some projected, maybe there is an issue to hitter development. Whether that’s safeco and overestimation of abilities as prospects more than development harder to say. But I don’t really see this with Erasmo Ramirez as an issue, the need to go elsewhere to realize his potential. He’s already more than what people projected for him coming into 2012.

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  4. Choo says:

    Erasmo lost the feel for his changeup last season. During his first 6 starts, he threw it 20% of the time, about the same as 2012. But if you watched him, you might have noticed it wasn’t the same pitch – less break (PITCHf/x backs this up), less command, and more contact. For his final 7 starts he only threw the change about 12% of the time, replacing it with more breaking balls.

    To the naked eye, Erasmo simply looked like a pitcher trying to survive, and adjusting, without his usual stuff. The increased 2-seam usage is encouraging as his 4-seamer is pretty flat, but I rediscovering his change will be the key in 2014.

    As for Saunders, he injured his shoulder on April 10, struggled for two months (his avg FB distance dropped 12 feet) and then returned to pre-injury form. It’s not uncommon for a hitter to struggle for an extended period of time following a shoulder injury. The bizarre thing, however, is that Saunders lowered his O-Swing% more than any other player in baseball last season, finishing with the 10th lowest O-Swing% among batters with 450 plate appearances. Basically, he turned into Rickie Weeks. It will be interesting to see if he maintains that swing profile or reverts back.

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Quality comment — stats, insight, first-hand scouting….warms my heart

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