A rebuttal to the predictable Hanley Ramirez features that have shown up in advance of today's Red Sox-Marlins series opener:
"Can anybody include the fact that Hanley is a subpar to very poor fielding SS in any of these “one that got away” articles? He averaged around 24 Es per season in ‘06, ‘07 & ‘08 and already has 5 this season. I know that this is not the cutting edge measure of fielding ability these days but the Fielding Bible has him as the 2nd worst frielding SS in the ML behind Jeter in the last three seasons. Why is this information conveniently left out? The Sox actually talked about putting him in CF to replace Damon because of this reason."
This has become a regular refrain from those trying to talk down the "We should trade for Hanley!" dreamers. But there is a reason that information is conveniently left out.
It's not true.
(Cue angry masses with pitchforks and torches.)
Hang on for one second. Hear me out. Hanley Ramirez has become an underrated defensive shortstop.
In fact, if you consider his play over his last 200-plus games -- all of last season and the first 60 or so games of this season -- he's an above-average defensive shortstop. Check out the numbers:
(UZR and Fielding Bible plus-minus both are a measure of the runs a defender saves in his defensive area as compared to runs that an average defender either would have saved or allowed.)
Two years ago, Ramirez was perhaps the worst defensive shortstop in baseball. Every statistic available points to the same conclusion:
* 26 errors, second-worst among shortstops
* -19.2 Ultimate Zone rating, worst among shortstops
* -37 Fielding Bible plus-minus, worst among shortstops
This, of course, is where his critics get all their ammunition.
But fielders, like hitters, can get better.
* 22 errors, worst among shortstops
* -0.7 UZR, 12th among shortstops
* +3 Fielding Bible plus-minus, 15th among shortstops
Errors, as we all should be starting to realize, are a fickle statistic. If you go deep into the hole and get a ball and then throw it away, you're charged with an error. If you completely whiff on a fly ball, failing even to get your glove on a can of corn a Little Leaguer could catch -- we're looking at you, Nick Swisher -- you're not charged with an error.
If we look past errors, then, we'll see something interesting: Ramirez went from being the worst shortstop in the league to being a relatively mediocre shortstop. His Fielding Bible plus-minus number, in fact, has him as an above-average shortstop -- and he went from minus-21 to plus-10 when going to his right. (For the stats, click here; a subscription is required.)
But it's not improvement if it's not a trend, right?
* 5 errors, tied for 11th among shortstops
* 1.3 UZR, 12th among shortstops
* +3 Fielding Bible plus-minus, 12th among shortstops
Hey, look at that.
That looks like a slightly above-average shortstop.
No, we're not talking about the second coming of Omar Vizquel. But it's about time the public opinion of Ramirez's defense starts to include his 2008 and 2009 seasons rather than just the brutal 2007 season.
At this point in his career, he's at least an adequate defender -- and when you can hit like he does, adequate is all you need.