Boston Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez affected by injuries at the plate


When the Boston Red Sox brought Hanley Ramirez to town last winter they knew they weren’t getting a slick fielding defensive minded player. They got him for hit bat. Even if the Red Sox brass could have predicted that the transition to left field would go horrifically wrong, they wouldn’t be too concerned as long as he could hit.

Here’s the problem. Ramirez hasn’t hit, not in a long time. Not since April, when he stormed onto the scene by blasting 10 home runs with a .659 slugging percentage in his first month with the Red Sox. Ramirez’s adventures in the outfield were largely ignored when he was putting up MVP-caliber numbers at the plate, but that torrid pace would not last.

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Since hitting those 10 home runs in April, Ramirez has gone deep only 9 times the rest of the season. Since the beginning of May he is hitting a measly .238 with a .367 slugging percentage. That’s not the hitter the Red Sox thought they were getting. You could live with those numbers from an elite defensive player, but Ramirez has been a disaster in the outfield, which explains why he carries a brutal -1.2 WAR this season. That’s what $88 million buys you these days? A below-replacement level player.

How could a hitter with Ramirez’s track record see his production fall off a cliff so drastically after such a scorching start to the season? Various injuries that the 31-year old has piled up over the course of the season are to blame.

Ramirez bruised his left shoulder in May when he crashed into the left field wall, which coincides with when his production began to dip. He was hit on the hand by a line drive off the bat of Xander Bogaerts in June, effecting his grip on the bat and significantly sapping his power, which he explains comes from his injured left hand that is on the bottom when he holds the bat.

Ramirez missed 13 games in August, including the last 4 to end the month. He missed 7 straight games after fouling a ball off his foot on Aug. 7 in Detroit, but Ramirez has now revealed that his absence had more to do with a nagging shoulder injury that was the result of a throw from left field. The injury had bothered him for weeks, but he kept quiet about it until that Detroit series when he had his foot checked out because he wanted to stay in the lineup.

"“This is not me,” Ramirez said on Monday, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber. “I’m such a good hitter and I can’t look like that on the field. But I didn’t want to say anything because I wanted to play.”"

As noble as it may seem that Ramirez has attempted to grind through the pain in order to play, the results show that he’s only hurting himself and the team by not sitting out to allow his body to recover. Ramirez has drawn his fair share of critics among fans and media for his failure to live up to the expectations of his lucrative contract. While the injuries he has suffered aren’t his fault, the decision to try to play through them at the expense of the team falls primarily on his shoulders. Especially if he had been hiding an injury from the team or downplaying how much it was affecting him.

"“They don’t know what’s going on in here, what’s going on with my body,” Ramirez said in response to his critics. “I respect that because (fans) pay to see you prove every day that you’re there. They want us to do the best every day. I know I’ve tried my best every day when I’ve been out there, but some things don’t go the right way.”"

Things won’t go the right way if Ramirez isn’t healthy. The shoulder and hand injuries have altered the way he swings the bat, depriving him of the ability to drive the ball the way he has in the past. We’ve all seen it over the last few months, but only now that Ramirez is opening up about his injuries are we getting confirmation as to the reason it is happening.

The good news is that we can assume that a healthy Ramirez should return to being the hitter he once was. Who knows if we’ll see that version of him again this season, but an offseason to recuperate will do wonders to help get him back to the level we are used to seeing from him. Hopefully an expected move to first base will help keep him healthier, with fewer walls to crash into and less strenuous throws to make.

Ramirez’s first season back in Boston has been a bust following a promising start. If he can get healthy by next season, 2016 could offer him the chance to redeem himself. Perhaps his contract won’t end up being a total disaster after all.

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