The Miami Marlins were expected to do a lot of good things in 2012, but due to a variety of different factors, including a number of players failing expectations, the team struggled to a last-place finish following a series of midseason "seller" trades.
The player who perhaps played the biggest role in this downfall was Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez was supposed to be part of the foundation of the Miami Marlins as they embarked on a three-year run in an attempt to compete with their current core. Ramirez was coming off of his worst season in the majors, having struggled to a .243/.333/.379 batting line (.317 wOBA) in 2011 with the Marlins before succumbing to a shoulder injury. With the shoulder apparently healthy but Ramirez now moving to another (easier) position at third base in favor of Jose Reyes, Ramirez and the Marlins had question marks heading into 2012. The hope was that the former All-Star shortstop could regain his form at the plate to something akin to his 2010 levels and that his move to third base would at least go smoothly enough for the Marlins to feel confident about him for the next three years.
Instead, none of that happened.
Instead of the Marlins receiving a hitter who was fully healthy and ready to prove he was still an elite talent, the team got a player who was closer to his terrible 2011 than his heyday of 2007 to 2010. Sure, there was definitely some recovery from his awful 2011 year, but Ramirez continued to falter in enough areas that were problematic that season that the Marlins lost patience with his performance.
The one area in which Ramirez returned to some prominence was his power. In 2011, his ISO dropped to a career-worst .136, in part because he continued a trend of hitting the ball on the ground too often. His 50.9 percent ground ball rate looked identical to his 2010 mark of 51.0 percent, and hitting so many balls on the ground caused his power numbers to dip, both in terms of doubles and home runs. In 2012, much of that came back to him. For the Marlins, Ramirez hit grounders on just 42.2 percent of balls in play and he also upped his HR/FB rate to 12.8 percent, a mark much closer to his career norms. While his rate of doubles and triples was significantly worse than his career marks, his 7.4 percent mark at least bested his 2010 season. His ISO jumped back up to 2010 levels at .181.
The problem was that Ramirez was still not sneaking balls past defenders. His 2011 mark of a .275 BABIP was actually better than what he did with the Marlins in 2012. Despite a month of May in which he hit .351 on balls in play en route to a .322/.364/.525 line, Ramirez still ended his time with the Marlins with a .271 BABIP. He sandwiched that one good month with three poor months of hitting, with Ramirez's BABIP down enough in April, June, and July to allow him wOBAs of .314, .307. and .287 in those months respectfully.
As a result of Ramirez's poor batting average, the rest of his line was pulled down, and he was not much better than league average. His .326 wOBA with the Fish was only measured at three percent better than the league average by FanGraphs's wRC+ metric, and the Marlins needed Ramirez to perform closer to 30 percent above the league average to gain a competitive edge at third base.
It did not help that there was a decent chance Ramirez was not close to a positive contributor at his new position defensively as well.
|Ramirez, System||Runs Above Average|
Most defensive metrics had Ramirez struggling badly on the defensive side of the ball. In watching Marlins games, I noticed that, as expected, Ramirez was able to handle balls hit to him or in his general vicinity fairly well, and he also did a good job on charge plays and bunts past the first couple of weeks. However, ranging to his left towards second base continued to be a problem all the way until the time he was dealt, and combined with Reyes's apparent struggles to the third base side, I have a feeling that a number of balls sneaked past the third base hole that would not have done so with average defenders at third or short.
Overall, Ramirez's performance was a major disappointment for the Marlins, and the struggles he had at the plate and on the field had to convince the Fish that he simply would not be worth the $38 million the team still owed him through 2014. The trade that netted Nathan Eovaldi from the Los Angeles Dodgers may not have seemed like a huge return given Ramirez's name status, but the 2012 season showed that his name had lost significant luster.