The normalization of Alexei Ramirez

During Sunday’s tough-luck 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Alexei Ramirez had a typical day. He went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk.
Twenty-five of his last 27 base hits have been singles. He has drawn at least six walks in the first five months of the season, and has more of those (five) than strikeouts (three) in September.
Typical days were a foreign concept to Ramirez last year, as he swung from the heels, made odd decisions on the basepaths, showed a knack for making creative plays in the field when he wasn’t showing a lack of range at second. Along with his rookie record of five grand slams, the Cuban Missile had a sense of drama, and he parlayed that into a runner-up finish in the Rookie of the Year Award.
This year, Ramirez has turned into a very normal player, which involves a mix of progression and regression.
*He has a better understanding of the strike zone.

FanGraphs has him swinging at 31.7 percent of pitches out of the zone, down from 42.7 last year. Overall, he’s swinging at 50.8 percent of pitches, down from 59.8 percent.
*He provides positive basestealing value.
He’s successful on 14 of 19 stolen base attempts this year, meaning that he’s stolen more bases than he did last year (13) while getting thrown out fewer times than he did last year (nine).
*He’s been a solid shortstop.
After suffering through a period of ugly efforts on routine throws, Ramirez has been reliable over the last month or so. UZR has him at two runs above average; Plus/Minus has him at one run above average. He still struggles with positioning at times, but unlike in his time at second, he’s made up for it in other facets.
*He’s lost a lot of extra base power.
Ramirez has seven more at-bats under his belt this year, but he has 17 fewer extra-base hits. Did you know he has only 12 doubles? That seems remarkable for somebody with his good speed. Carlos Quentin has the same amount, even though he missed a couple months and has a bum wheel.
*His splits are widening.
Ramirez is a big part of the Sox’s too-righty feel:

  • 2008:
    • vs. RHP: .281/.307/.453
    • vs. LHP: .312/.340/.529
  • 2009:
    • vs. RHP: .248/.298/.360
    • vs. LHP: .365/.434/.522

The one trait Ramirez has carried over to 2009 is success with runners in scoring position.  He’s hitting .311 overall, and that increases to .345 with two outs. Problem is, he’s spent most of the time batting behind the foundering Jermaine Dye, so what we have is a guy who went from capturing the imagination to warranting little press, for better and for worse.
You could consider him a discount-rack version of the guy he replaced, Orlando Cabrera, and that’s both good and bad for the Sox.
He’s made major steps in refining his game, which is a pleasant surprise for somebody whose game has been referred to as “all tools, no skills” in the past. That he went from being a below-average second baseman to a middle-of-the-pack shortstop is another big plus.
At the same time, the drop in slugging almost necessitated an improvement in the field, because if he’s not good for 30 extra-base hits, then his bat only looks good at short, compared to the other positions he could theoretically handle.  That might complicate plans the Sox have for Gordon Beckham, and if they want to move him to short to maximize his value, swapping positions with Ramirez would be a wash.
It’s not a problem, though. There are worse things than having two guys on the roster who look like positive players at short. But it’s an interesting subplot, because it’s possible that Ramirez has developed into an expendable piece because he made key improvements.
The extent to which Ramirez is expendable is impossible to tell. There are complications both cultural (would trading Ramirez after dealing Jose Contreras adversely affect Dayan Viciedo and Cuban recruitment?) and financial (could the Sox get a lefty bat they need with an affordable contract like Ramirez’s?) that gum up the question further.
At the very least, it’s something to consider as 2010 plans are hatched. And it’s fitting that one of the more fascinating stories of this season is how a previously interesting player became rather boring.
Speaking of interesting players, the never-boring Juan Uribe went profundo once again during a 3-for-4, two-RBI day against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.
Now that he has basically the same number of at-bats as last season (327 to 324), it’s fun to compare his 2009 line against his last year with the Sox:

  • 2008: .247/.296/.386, 22 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR.
  • 2009: .284/.323/.498, 23 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR.

Oddly enough, his 2009 season looks very much like his first one in a White Sox uniform (.283/.327/.506). Maybe he really, really likes changing leagues.
Ozzie Guillen has his own theory:

As the Giants chase the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies in the National League West, Uribe bats after Sandoval and Bengie Molina in the lineup, which illustrates to Guillen the difference between the leagues.
“Uribe is batting fifth, and the team is in the pennant race,” Guillen said. “Uribe was ninth on this club because we didn’t have 10 players.”

That was said in jest (partially, at least), because Bruce Bochy said Guillen gave Uribe a glowing recommendation.
Minor league roundup:

  • Jacksonville 12, Birmingham 2
    • As mentioned yesterday, C.J. Retherford homered.
    • Dayan Viciedo and Christian Marrero each went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.
    • Jordan Danks drew two walks and struck out twice in five plate appearances.
    • Both Justin Cassel and Charlie Shirek were roughed up.
  • Great Falls 3, Missoula 1
    • Jose Vargas went 4-for-4 with an RBI.
    • Nick Ciolli went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts; Kyle Colligan walked once.
    • Matt Wickswat struck out six over five innings with no walks. He allowed one run on six hits.
    • Jacob Wilson and Matthew Hopps threw two scoreless innings apiece.

Birmingham’s season is over with the loss, and Great Falls is the last Sox affiliate standing.

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Alexei’s defense has seemingly gotten better as the season has gone on, and that is really key for Alexei. I hope its not because the sox are out of the race and its more the effect of playing the position consistently and having ozzie and joey in his ear about not being lazy.
Uribe is more then likely benefitting from terrible NL pitching, but its curious for the Walker haters that his best year with the sox is his first year, then the first year he leaves he is back on track… odd
@Jim, Im still in shock over this John Danks being a 3. Maybe its a semantics game, maybe you are saying he is a 3 on a championship level team which I completely agree with, but I would love to hear the 60 pitchers you rank ahead of him if you dont consider him a league wide number 2.


Ok that makes sense.
I like Floyd a little more, he just has that dominant feel. Kind of how aj burnett despite a bad era can at times just completely shut you down.


Hasn’t Floyd had like 3 games where he took no hitters into the 6th or 7th inning?


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve always been a friend of Juan Uribe. “Never boring” is an understatement.