Erasmo Ramirez’s struggles

eras 300x180 Erasmo Ramirezs strugglesRight-hander Erasmo Ramirez has struggled this season, tossing out two decent starts in five tries with three ugly ones standing out above all. The buzz Wednesday night was that Ramirez may be optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to work on things. True or not, it’s clear Ramirez hasn’t been what the Seattle Mariners have needed from their defacto No. 2 starter. It’s also clear why he’s struggled to such a degree.

Felix Hernandez is among the game’s very best aces in baseball. Comparing Hernandez and Ramirez is unfair to both pitchers. A strikezone plot comparison, however, demonstrates Ramirez’s main problem. Not his only issue, but the end-result of his pitches that have produced bad game results for the 23-year-old.

Below is Ramirez’s strikezone plot from April 17 versus Miami:

ErasmoKplot417 e1398320781655 Erasmo Ramirezs struggles

Here is Ramirez’s strikezone plot from April 12 versus Texas:

ErasmoKplot412 e1398320971920 Erasmo Ramirezs struggles

The above two plots are very much representative of Ramirez’s starts this season, with one and a half exceptions. Now, check out Hernandez’s strikezone plot from April 11 versus Oakland, a plot that is very much like nearly all of Hernandez’s outings in the matter of point:

Felixkplot411 e1398321444253 Erasmo Ramirezs struggles

You’ll notice Hernandez lives on the edges of the zone and is rarely up and in the middle of the plate. Ramirez, on the other hand, far more often is up and just out of the zone, and catches the middle quadrant of the zone significantly more often, an especially-alarming difference since Hernandez throws more total pitches. Ramirez can rush his fastball up there just as fast as can Hernandez. He’ll touch 94-95 mph, but pitch in the low-90s. The difference in velocity, according to FanGraphs, is less than one mile per hour. Ignoring the significant advantage Hernandez has in secondary offerings — because whether or not Hernandez better than Ramirez is not the issue at hand, nor is why he’s better — the reason Hernandez can sit 90-92 mph and get away with it two-fold but also very simple. First of all, Hernandez gets a lot more movement on his fastball; it sinks, it rides in on right-handed batters and away from left-handers. He can backdoor the pitch on the inside corner to lefties — with sink, too. That’s a big deal.

Ramirez doesn’t get that kind of consistent movement, and since he’s five inches shorter than is Hernandez, he’s not pitching downhill, either. So, command is so immensely critical for him to have success. He must stay on the edges, missing down or so far up that the batter cannot get on top of it.

Ramirez’s command is poor right now. He’s throwing enough strikes in general, but they aren’t quality strikes. His best pitch, the 60-grade changeup, is not much of a weapon when he cannot spot the fastball, get ahead and force batters to deal with a average slider and curveball, and ultimately the change. It’s pretty elementary, but it’s the absolute No. 1 problem for Ramirez at present. The stuff is fine. But if Ramirez is to be what many believe he;s capable of being, he must live down in the zone and on the edges. Down is the key. Hernandez is the perfect example of that. He’s not blowing away hitters with velocity, and there are times when he throws a ton of fastballs. Almost all down, unless it’s up with purpose, and so rarely over the middle portion of the strikezone.

There are some potential problems with Ramirez’s delivery, too, but I’m not sure they are contributing to the command problem since some innings the delivery is sound and the next it’s not, yet in both innings the command was poor. If he’s sent to Triple-A to work on things — and he’s currently not listed to go over the next five games, a sign he’s being skipped or shipped — it’s worth keeping an eye on his mechanics, including minor changes in where his hands are throughout and how he uses his lower half.

Average command for Ramirez probably is enough for him to be a solid No. 4 starter, which is more than the Mariners need out of him. His struggles has been magnified by the club’s offensive woes and pitching injuries, and ultimately he fits best in a long relief and spot starter role, covering 70-90 innings per season and rarely being asked to go through the middle of the opposing lineup more than once, which helps him hide some of his deficiencies, and in such a role we may see the velocity tick up a notch or two. Until the club’s preferred rotation gets healthy, however, Ramirez is needed.

All StrikeZone Plots Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

Written by Jason A. Churchill

Moi2 Erasmo Ramirezs struggles

Executive Editor
Jason founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at Inside the Park and covering prep, college and pro sports for several news outlets, local and national, including MLB.com and ESPN Insider. He currently serves as co-host of the Steve Sandmeyer Show on 1090 The Fan, CBS Sports Seattle.

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4 comments on “Erasmo Ramirez’s struggles

  1. Edman says:

    BTW……which Manager is more like Lou Pineilla, Eric Wedge or Lloyd McLendon? Lou would, and often did, have absolutely NO problem with publically criticizing a player who he felt wasn’t meeting his expectations.

  2. Edman says:

    magman, Lloyd McLendon is not here to be best friends with the players. It’s HIS JOB to criticize players that aren’t performing. He gets paid to recognize and correct problems. Wedge always had the “kids” fallback position, because he didn’t want to publically make his players accountable. I praise McLendon for making the player be responsible.

    Jason is exactly right. Ramirez isn’t getting the point. It’s not a secret what McLendon expected him to do. You don’t think he wants Erasmo to be a MLB ready starter? He, like most baseball fans, know Erasmo’s stuff is good enough. But it’s not so good that he can get away with mistakes, especially when he’s ahead of hitters. If he won’t listen and learn, then he needs to be demoted, until he can spot his pitches. If he can’t do that, he’ll be a human batting practice machine.

    The difference between Almonte and Ramirez? One is listening to instructions and working hard to be better. The other has been told over and over what he needs to so, and either isn’t hearing it, or uncapable of doing what is necessary to be successful.

    Almonte deserves an opportunity to prove he can adapt at the MLB level, and one month into the season isn’t a reflection of what he will do in his career. He has a unique set of skills that the M’s need, if he can transition. He has a lot more rope than someone like Saunders.

  3. Jason A. Churchill says:

    That’s because he’s not listening.

  4. mgvernon says:

    His problems have hardly been helped by his manager publicly criticizing him after every start. He doesn’t do that to other players, including Almonte who is in over his head leading off in particular. If it hasn’t happened already McClendon is going to lose the locker room.

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