Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez responds well to being dropped in batting order

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 21: Hanley Ramirez
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 21: Hanley Ramirez /

The bat of first baseman/DH Hanley Ramirez has started to heat up since the Boston Red Sox dropped him to seventh in the lineup.

Baseball players are creatures of habit who don’t always react well to change. A highly paid veteran accustomed to batting in the middle of the lineup can be shaken from their routine if they were suddenly dropped in the order. They may pout about a perceived demotion, resulting in a further dip in production or disruption in clubhouse chemistry. Not Hanley Ramirez. All he’s done since being dropped to seventh in the batting order is hit and help the Boston Red Sox win games.

Manager John Farrell shuffled his lineup heading into a three game series this week in Toronto. The Red Sox were coming off of a four-game losing streak, during which Ramirez was 1-for-11 at the plate. The 33-year old was mired in a second half slump, hitting a dreadful .210 since the break. Something had to change. The team needed to either find a way to spark Ramirez out of his funk or move more deserving hitters ahead of him in the lineup.

The Red Sox managed to do both in bumping Ramirez down a couple of spots. When Boston opened their series against the Blue Jays it marked the first time this season that Ramirez started a game hitting lower than sixth in the lineup.

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Apparently, the No. 7 spot agrees with him. Ramirez went 5-for-12 (.417) with two doubles and a pair of solo home runs in the three-game sweep in Toronto. It was the first time since April that he has homered in consecutive games, bringing his season total to a team-high 21 home runs.

It’s been a disappointing season for Ramirez, whose .249 batting average matches the one he produced in his disastrous 2015 season after signing a lucrative free agent deal with the Red Sox. His power numbers are off the pace of last year’s bounce-back campaign, although we have to realize that last season was the first 30 homer, 100+ RBI season of his career. A repeat of that was never a given.

We’ve seen Ramirez get hot enough to blast double-digit home runs in a month. Reaching 30 isn’t out of the question, but we shouldn’t count on it. However, would anyone be surprised if Hanley hammered a handful of homers in September? If he winds up with around 26, which would be the fourth most he’s hit in a single season in his career, that would hardly be a disappointment.

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The question now is whether Ramirez will continue to produce in his new spot in the lineup or if this is merely the mirage of a small sample size.

Perhaps his recent success had more to do with facing Blue Jays pitching than his place in the order. Ramirez is hitting .286 with a .935 OPS against Toronto this season. He’s always enjoyed hitting at the Rogers Centre, where he owns a career .328 average, .959 OPS, six home runs and 25 RBI over 28 games.

One of the biggest factors behind his dip in production this season has been an abysmal .190 batting average with runners in scoring position. As promising as his production in the Toronto series was, it’s worth noting all five of his hits came with the bases empty.

While these recent results are encouraging, we need a larger sample before we can proclaim Ramirez is back to being a run producing threat at the plate. It’s great that he has strung together a few good games, but let’s see if he can keep it up through the weekend series in Yankee Stadium, where he has historically struggled.

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It remains to be seen if Farrell will keep Ramirez in the No. 7 spot in the lineup moving forward. Given his recent success, there’s no reason to take him out of that spot, at least until it stops working.