|Aramis? Is that you?|
After Monday’s walk-off homer, Ron Santo declared Aramis Ramirez back (he has probably said it a half dozen times or so of late). For the record, A-Ram hasn’t really gone anywhere. His bat has been missing. His look of determined competence was nowhere to be found. He appeared to be playing the role of Mike Fontenot’s inept replacement at third base, but Aramis has been in the starting lineup for 36 of the Cubs’ 40 games so far this year.
The hits haven’t been there, though. Aramis has hit safely in just 22 of those 36 starts. Of his hitless games, he drew a walk (just one) in eight of them. He has three multi-hit games; one was opening day. The other two offensive explosions (two hits each) have come in the last five games. It’s hard to say he is back, because he still hasn’t had an extended stretch of productivity. But by comparison, he’s definitely closer to being offensively relevant than he was at the beginning of the year.
Through his first 18 games (including one late-inning replacement) Aramis struck out 23 times in 79 plate appearances for a K% of PMET%*. Since then, he’s fanned just 10 times in 84 PAs, a much improved (and much closer to his career 15.4% rate) 11.9%. So, yeah, Aramis is hitting the ball now.
But on the whole, Aramis is still way off his typical batted ball distribution. He typically hits 19.8% line drives, 35.2% grounders, 45% fly balls (13.4% of which wind up as homers), and 11.5% popups. This year, Ramirez has a line-drive rate of 14.7% (down a bit), groundball rate of 25% (way down), and a pop-up rate of 11.5% (almost exactly his average). The big difference? His flyball rate is 60.3%, a spike of almost 50% of his career average. Now that Aramis is actually putting the ball in play, most of those balls are going in the air. The real bad news: his homer per flyball rate is less than half his career standard: 5.7%.
So Ramirez is back in a sense: he’s not completely lost at the plate anymore. Hopefully he can return to the guy who prefers hard line drives to towering moon shots, because he’s pretty much an out machine right now. In his last five games, he’s slugging .500. For the season: .288.
I like what I’m seeing out of Ramirez right now, and I have every reason to believe his last five games are more indicative of what we’ll see than his first month and a half. We know the guy can hit, and we can see his slump wasn’t permanent. Let’s just hope the resurgence is neither too short nor too late.
*Pretty Much Every Time