For Cubs fans, the pain of missing the playoffs in 2009 for the first time in three seasons was bad enough. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, however, had the pain market cornered.
After suffering an excruciating separated shoulder on May 8, Ramirez missed 50 games, and watched his team go just 24-26 over that stretch. The injury would continue to nag Ramirez for the remainder of the year, and he would miss over 20 percent of the remaining games even after returning from it on July 6.
When healthy, however, Ramirez managed to continue doing exactly what he has been doing for six and a half seasons as a Cub: mashing the baseball like few other third baseman in the game.
Since the beginning of 2004, Ramirez's first full year in Chicago, he has hit .303/.368/.551. Only Alex Rodriguez has been better at the hot corner during that span. Ramirez also has 173 home runs, despite having only 15 in 2009 over the 82 games he played.
Best of all, though it may not be a sabermetrically demonstrable skill, Ramirez's flair for the dramatic has earned him a reputation as a clutch hitter. In successive seasons beginning with 2007, Ramirez has hit walk-off home runs against the Cubs' top three rivals.
His 2007 blast against the Milwaukee Brewers marked a turning point in what would become a divisional championship season; the next June, against the crosstown White Sox, Ramirez hit another bomb, his second of that game, to lead off the bottom of the tenth inning. Finally, this April, Ramirez did in the St. Louis Cardinals with an extra-inning walk-off home run on FOX's Saturday game of the week.
In particular, Ramirez has embraced the Friendly Confines as his hitting home. For each of the past three seasons, his OPS at Wrigley Field has been over 1.000, a remarkable statistic.
The only question mark for Ramirez, then, is his durability. He has averaged 131 games in his six seasons as a Cub, and must play at least that many for the Cubs to reclaim the National League Central crown in 2010. My bet is that he will reach about exactly that total. Here are my other projections:
- 130 games
- 545 plate appearances
- .294/.361/.522 AVG/OBP/SLG
- 25 home runs
In plain English, another great season from a man who, when he stays on the field, is as consistent as they get. The Cubs will look back at this era of their revival and credit much of it to a man too often overshadowed by Derrek Lee and Carlos Zambrano. Aramis Ramirez is a stud.
Watch for other profiles of the 2010 Cubs, which I will be doing throughout the remainder of the offseason. Here are some of the ones already done, and some on the way soon!