Is Hanley Ramirez's Return Enough to Save the Los Angeles Dodgers' Offense?

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Is Hanley Ramirez's Return Enough to Save the Los Angeles Dodgers' Offense?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Now that Hanley Ramirez and his bat are back, will the Dodgers offense pick up?

The Dodgers' offense is so bad.

[This is where you're supposed to chime in by shouting in unison, "How bad is it?"]

So bad it's keeping the Marlins' offense company.

One of the big stories so far in 2013 is the utter ineptitude of Miami's hitters, who own an aggregate triple-slash line of .229/.288/.315. This was, more or less, to be expected, given the club's quadruple-A roster.

The Dodgers, though? The big-market, big-spending, big-name, revamped, retooled and revitalized Dodgers? Well, they were supposed to take the NL West and all of baseball by storm.

And yet, their 91 runs scored in 27 games is the second-lowest total in baseball.

Some storm.

Blame Matt Kemp, who may not be all the way back from offseason shoulder surgery just yet, as he is hitting just .260 with one homer, 11 RBI and a .655 OPS after a blistering April a year ago.

Matt Kemp's production so far hasn't come close to what he did last April when he hit .417 with 12 homers and 25 RBI.

Or blame Andre Ethier, who's sort of just coasting along with a .237 average, three homers, nine RBI and a .717 OPS.

Better yet, blame the left side of the infield, where the shortstop trio of Justin Sellers, Luis Cruz and Nick Punto has combined for a .584 OPS (eighth-worst in the majors).

And if we really want to get to the root of the problem, there's the third base crew of Juan Uribe, Cruz, Jerry Hairston and Punto, who have managed an MLB-worst .443 OPS.

Forget the rain, we know who to blame it on now.

Enter Hanley Ramirez: Savior?

In baseball, one player is never enough to make an offense go, let alone fix what ails a collection of struggling stars like the Dodgers. But how much can Ramirez help the Dodgers' floundering offense now that he's returned from a torn ligament in his right thumb sooner than expected—but not a moment too soon?

Look, Ramirez is almost certainly no longer the five-to-six win player he was with the Marlins from 2006-10, when he compiled the fifth-most wins above replacement in the game over that five-year stretch.

Back then, Ramirez also ranked in the top 20 in weighted runs created plus, or wRC+, a metric used to determine how many runs above average a player is worth on offense (where 100 is league average). In Ramirez's case, he was 36 runs better than the average player in that time-frame.

The Dodgers actually have given 72 plate appearances to Justin Sellers, who's slashing .200/.278/.262.

But even if Ramirez never gets back to his former self, he'll be a major upgrade for the Dodgers. Essentially, by playing Ramirez at shortstop in place of that smorgasbord of atrocity that had been "holding down the fort," the club will be getting addition by subtraction and addition by addition.

Together, Dodgers shortstops currently own MLB's third-worst wRC+ with a score of 30—meaning the position has created 70 percent fewer runs than the league average.

By himself, Ramirez's wRC+ in 2012 was 107, meaning he created runs at a rate of seven percent above league average. It's not Hanley in his heyday, but the Dodgers don't need that—they need someone to not be the worst in the entire sport on offense.

Even though we passed around the blame baton above, Ramirez won't have to do everything by himself because not everyone on the team is at fault for the offensive-offense.

New Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez (.330 BA, 3 HR, 20 RBI, .888 OPS) and Carl Crawford (.308 BA, 4 HR, 20 R, .905 OPS) have proved to be rather productive in their first full seasons with the team, so Ramirez won't have to do it all by himself.

Plus, both Kemp and Ethier will pick up their portion of the slack soon, too.

The other semi-good news is that the club's .250 batting average is at least in the middle of the pack (16th overall), and the .327 on-base percentage is actually in the top 10.

Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers biggest problem on O is getting extra-base hits, as they rank third-worst with a .362 SLG and are in the bottom five in each of doubles (37), triples (1) and homers (20).

While Ramirez used to be one of the better hitters for average—he batted .313 from 2006-10—that has been trending downward over the past three seasons.

What Ramirez can still do, though, even if he's only hitting .250-.270, is drive the ball, which is exactly what the Dodgers need and what Ramirez has done since returning, as he homered and doubled in his first start (see video) and hit another two-bagger in his second.

In his first start since coming off the DL, just in time for his bobblehead promotion, Ramirez homered and doubled.

He might not be bringing sexy back, but Ramirez helps the Dodgers make up for the things they lack.

Through a sluggish start, the Dodgers have managed to hover around .500 (currently 13-14), and while they're in fourth place in the NL West, they're only 2.5 games-back of the Rockies for the division lead—not exactly an insurmountable distance.

Now, the Dodgers' hitters just have to work on putting some distance between themselves and those Marlins.

 

All statistics come from MLB, FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.

Can Hanley help the Dodgers? Let's hear it in the comments or come pester me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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