A quick note on Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez entered this season 30 home runs short of 500. Given that he has posted nine straight seasons of 30+ home runs, it seemed like a given that he would get there. Well, almost 100 games into the season, Ramirez has just 15 long balls on the year and it looks like he might have to wait for 2008 to hit number 500.

But has Manny lost his power? In my column on Thursday, I wrote that Ramirez “has definitely lost a little bit,” but that nonetheless, he “has been consistently great with a .970 OPS in May, .938 in June, and .931 thus far in July.” I am now thinking that maybe I should reconsider my words.

First of all, it is always important to consider league effects when looking at a player’s numbers from year to year. Power is down this season; last year, the American League slugged .437; this year, it’s slugging .419. Of course, Manny’s numbers are down well beyond the effects of league averages, but those numbers are just something to keep in mind.

Here’s why: The past two months, Ramirez has been just about his old self, hitting .343/.452/.596 for a 1.048 OPS. Now, that batting average is a bit high, but even if we knock it down 30 points to keep in-line with his career average, that will translates to a .313/.422/.544 batting line. And once we adjust those numbers for league average, they don’t look very different from Ramirez’s career numbers: .315/.424/.559 this season versus .313/.410/.595 for his career.

That’s a little less power, but it isn’t nearly as serious as Manny’s .494 slugging percentage on the season makes it seem. Can we totally ignore the first seven weeks of the season? No, of course not. But Manny’s startlingly consistent career numbers suggest that the past two months are more indicative of his performance going forward.

And in that case, we should look forward to a slow, smooth aging process that leaves Manny gunning for 600 home runs and beyond.

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