This past winter, the Milwaukee Brewers shelled out a healthy does of capital to 33-year-old free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez with the hope that he would mitigate the loss of offensive productivity produced by long-time first baseman Prince Fielder, but after a horrible spring training and first few series of the regular season, that hasn’t been the case.
In 20 preseason games (55 total plate appearances), Milwaukee’s new third baseman managed a .218/.232/.309 line with just one home run, three runs batted in and six runs scored, drawing just one walk while striking out nine times. While it’s true that spring training games don’t count for much, Brewers fans were concerned about whether or not his preseason struggles would carry over to the regular season.
Well, it seems they have.
Through Milwaukee’s first six games of the regular season (26 total plate appearances), Ramirez holds true to an unsightly .091/.192/.182 line with no home runs, five runs batted in and three runs scored. His pitch recognition and plate discipline have looked awful this season, which has resulted in a strikeout rate north of 25 percent on the young 2012 season.
The question everyone wants answered is whether or not Ramirez can recover from his awful spring campaign and return to his slugging ways of old. Needless to say, his bat will have a big say on how late into October the Brewers plan on playing this season. If he does—as he’s expected to—then the Brewers will be well on their way to repeating as NL Central Division champs and could very well be World Series contenders. It he doesn’t, though, then GM Doug Melvin will look foolish and the club’s entire 2012 campaign will be tossed out the window.
While there’s no way of definitively knowing whether or not Ramirez will bounce back from his abhorrent start, there are a few indicators that could help to induce our judgment.
Here is a look at Ramirez’s swing-pitch zone though his first six games this season.
Now, here’s a look at Ramirez’s swing-pitch zone through his first six games of last season with the Chicago Cubs.
As you can clearly see, Ramirez’s strike zone through the first six games of this season is noticeably more expanded than that of the first six games of last season. This suggests that either he’s become less patient as a hitter or that he’s simply struggling with pitch recognition and strike-zone discipline. It many not be all that much of a concern at this juncture, but if his struggles at the plate persist, it will be hard for him to gather confidence in his bat, and who knows how high his strikeout rate will be at mid-season.
But while Ramirez has undoubtedly labored at the plate early on this season, history suggests that his offensive production increases as the season carries on. Ramirez holds true to a less-than-impressive career .257/.330/.452 line in April but has been able to get hot toward the latter stages of the regular season, posting a career .306/.367/.539 line in the month of August.
At this juncture, there's really no way of determining whether or not Ramirez can recover from such an abysmal spring. The pressures of replacing a talent of Fielder's magnitude are overwhelmingly high, so the biggest thing for Milwaukee's new third baseman will be to remain as positive as possible and just stay loose.
Only time will tell from here on out.