When the Mets traded Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez, I wrote that the deal was more about strengthening the bullpen than about an upgrade in center field. While Pagan hasn’t exactly wowed anyone by the bay, the trade hasn’t gone well from the Mets point of view either. In addition to Andres Torres spending almost the entire first month of the season on the disabled list, Ramirez has been a disappointment so far out of the bullpen. The question is, however, should Sandy Alderson and company have expected anything better?
Ramirez has bounced around a lot during his career, spending time with the Rockies, Royals, Red Sox and Giants, in addition to a minor league stint with the Yankees, before arriving in Queens. He was acquired to bolster the middle relief corps, which floundered for much of 2011, but has been inconsistent. For a player coming off a stellar 2011 season (2.62 ERA, 1.165 WHIP and an 8.7 K/9), his performance seems a little perplexing.
A large part of his struggles has to do with walks-too many of them. Thus far, Ramirez has walked seven batters in 14.2 innings, far too many considering he’s struck out only ten. Throughout his career, Ramirez has had a propensity for walking batters, as he is the owner of a lifetime 3.7 BB/9. High walk rates are often tolerated for pitchers who strike out a lot of batters, but Ramirez’s strikeout rates have risen and fallen over the years. For example, in 2008, his K/9 was 8.8 while in 2009 it was 6.7. It dipped down to 6.6 in 2010 before rising again to 8.7 last season. While he’s always walked batters, Ramirez hasn’t always consistently generated strikeouts.
Ramirez has also experienced fluctuations in his ground ball rate. In 2011, he was a ground ball machine, inducing grounders at a 50% rate. However, the year prior, that rate was just 36.1% and 34.6% before that. He’s done a good job keeping the ball on the ground so far this season-to the tune of 46.7%-but one has to wonder if he can keep it going.
Finally, Ramirez has been helped out with some luck, mainly in the form of a low BABIP. From 2008-11, Ramirez’s BABIP has always fallen well below the league average (for example, his BABIP in 2010 was .221, while the average was .293. Last season, it was a little more even, as Ramirez posted a .277 BABIP while the average was .291). Unsurprisingly, Ramirez has encountered some bad luck this season, as he’s seen his BABIP skyrocket to .340.
Ramirez isn’t as bad as he is pitching now, but he probably won’t be as dominant as 2011 either. The BABIP should come down, resulting in more outs and fewer hits, but in order to succeed, he has to cut down on the walks and continue to induce grounders. His success won’t dictate the team’s win-loss record, but it will go a long way towards improving the bullpen and holding down the fort late in games.