Before we get started, I want to note that this is a legitimate response to Eric Karros’ comments on my article about Manny Ramirez’s lack of production.
On his Wednesday afternoon show, ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd addressed the arguments I asserted in regards to Manny’s inability to drive home runs and his poor average against off-speed pitches.
Later in the show, former Dodger and current FOX baseball analyst Eric Karros joined Cowherd to discuss the recent struggles of the Los Angeles offense.
(Listen to the entire podcast here; Karros comes on in the 11 a.m. segment.)
Karros argued that Rafael Furcal and the top of the order production is the real culprit for the run-scoring swoon and the poor Dodgers’ record that accompanied his downturn.
This goes against what I argued, that the second-half troubles of the Dodgers are due to Manny’s slump.
As Karros was about to get off the air, he made a snide remark that specifically caught my attention.
Karros said, with Cowherd chuckling in the background, "I don’t know who wrote that thing on Manny, but I’d go re-do that report."
My initial response was to dismiss Karros, because I figured he didn’t understand my argument.
After some thought, his comments triggered the motivation in me to re-examine the situation and do some extensive research to see if Furcal or Ramirez is the person to blame.
I had to step back and consider whether or not I had over-stretched the extent of the numbers I had initially found on my report about Manny.
After all, Karros was a former big leaguer, and maybe the real problem was indeed stemming from Furcal.
But then I realized: I have watched every pitch of every game this season; I know what I have seen.
And what I have seen is Manny driving in runs at a terribly low rate, no matter how often Furcal is on base.
Once I dove into the splits, it was obvious how to separate the data into a coherent matter, as Furcal had an outstanding month of July and is currently struggling mightily in August, which provided the perfect framework for my analysis.
Since Ramirez returned from suspension on July 3 and the month of August isn’t quite over, I was able to compare how often Manny has driven home or advanced Furcal in the months of August and July.
I went through every plate appearance Ramirez has had with Furcal on base during the month and recorded the results, leading to the following findings.
First, let me say that Karros is certainly correct about Furcal’s poor on-base percentage and lack of hitting in the month of August—just take a look at his stats for the month.
However, the raw numbers don’t really tell us much about the effect Furcal has on Manny, who is expected to be the main run-producer in the order.
Furcal has been on board 17 times from Aug. 1 to Aug. 25 with Manny at the plate; of those 17 plate appearances, Ramirez has been intentionally walked three times and walked once.
That reduces the number of at-bats to 13, and in those at-bats, Manny has just two hits, each of which plated Furcal.
One of those hits was a game-tying single with two outs in the ninth-inning on Tuesday night (we’ll come back to this later); the other was a double against the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 4.
Ramirez has struck out six times with Furcal on base and is just 1-for-7 with Furcal in scoring position.
Out of those seven at-bats with Furcal in scoring position, three came with two outs, and Manny failed to record a hit in all three chances.
Amidst Furcal’s worst month of the season, the Dodgers went 10-13 from the first of August until the 25th.
But to really know what this means, let’s also take a look at the month of July, when Furcal was on fire at the top of the lineup.
Take a look at Furcal’s stats, which are, by a long margin, his best month of the season, and you would immediately think that the team must have done better in the record column if Karros’ logic is correct.
Now, in the month of July, Ramirez had 24 plate appearances with Furcal on base.
In addition to a better team record if Karros’ assertion was correct, Manny would also have driven home Furcal plenty of times with the high-clip at which Furcal was getting on base.
But that’s when things get interesting.
In those 24 plate appearances, six were walks, giving him 18 at-bats with Furcal on base; Manny hit .277 (5-for-18) in those situations, driving home Furcal four times.
Not terrible, but once again, not outstanding.
The last of those hits came on July 21, and Manny closed out the month of July 0-for-7 with Furcal on in front of him.
Not only that, but the team went 14-10 during Furcal’s best month of the season, and when compared to how the Dodgers started the year, there seems to be no correlation between Furcal’s success and the team’s success.
These stats make it crystal clear that even when Furcal was getting on base, the team wasn’t playing better baseball and he still wasn’t being driven home on a consistent basis by the Dodgers’ slugger.
What Karros forgot to mention is that Furcal wasn’t hitting to start the season—but the Dodgers won games anyway.
Karros even went into detail about how, when Manny was suspended, Juan Pierre filled in for both Ramirez and Furcal, because Pierre got on base at the top of the order while Furcal had struggled to do so before the suspension.
From the beginning of the season until May 6, the last day Manny played before his suspension, Furcal hit .264.
During that stretch, Furcal had a .336 OBP and played 26 games; despite his poor numbers, the team still went 19-7 in those games.
This is where Karros’ argument completely falls apart, because Furcal, even in his top-performing month of July, didn’t provide a surge for the rest of the order and the team’s record like the former Dodger had suggested.
Rather, it was Manny’s boost at the beginning of the season that sparked the scorching start from the Dodgers.
Look at Manny’s numbers before the suspension:
Again, the team lost only seven games with Ramirez hitting well before the suspension, and Furcal mired in an early season slump.
Then, suddenly, the wheels came off for the first-place Dodgers when the offense re-focused on him after his return from suspension.
The team maintained while Ramirez was gone, going 29-21, and, as Karros pointed out, it was because of the dynamic play of Pierre.
So why would Karros conclude that Furcal is to blame for influencing the offense when the numbers indicate that the onus falls on Manny?
It just makes no sense.
Bringing It All Together
The numbers I collected surrounding Manny’s plate appearances with Furcal on base clearly indicate that Ramirez is not driving home Furcal at an acceptable clip.
Since returning from suspension and with Furcal on base, Manny is hitting just .226 (7-for-31).
The Dodgers’ offense is centered on Ramirez, and it is his job to push runs across the plate, and that is something he just hasn’t done.
Like I said, Karros made a specific point that Pierre reshaped the Dodgers’ order when he filled in for Manny. The team turned to a small-ball, more National League-type of offense, as opposed to being geared toward mounting runners on base when Manny is inserted.
While Manny has hit a very respectable .286 in August, his almost non-existent nine RBI are unacceptable for the team’s go-to hitter.
Karros stated on Cowherd’s show, “I don’t blame Manny...he’s not having a great month, but he’s still getting on base...[He] still has a presence in the lineup.”
I contend that his presence has been greatly diminished since his return from suspension.
Ramirez has only eight extra-base hits in August (six doubles, two home runs) in 84 at-bats, which is an unacceptable number for the man general manager Ned Colletti is paying to get big hits and drive in runs.
The lack of presence can be best summed up by Jim Tracy’s choice to pitch to Ramirez with a runner on third and two outs in Tuesday night’s game.
Even more alarming, the run on third (which happened to be Furcal), was the tying run in the top of the ninth, which meant Tracy was feeling that good about pitching to Ramirez.
Now, in this instance, Manny came through and singled home Furcal.
But there’s zero chance that if Manny were in that same situation last season, the opposing manager would have pitched to him.
Tracy figured that he might as well go after Manny, because, with his recent slump, the chances of him driving home Furcal were slim.
Colletti dished out $23.8 million for Manny to drive in runs and be a force in the lineup, a job that he just has not accomplished since returning from suspension.
While Andre Ethier would disagree about Manny’s presence in the order, seeing as he has been other-worldly since moving in front of Manny in the lineup, Manny has not done his job to drive in runs.
The team’s record in relation to Manny and Furcal’s production tells the story.
So please, Eric Karros, next time you criticize, take the time to look at the entire situation.
PJ Ross is a B/R Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers.