Hanley Ramirez, Ozzie Guillen, and Consistency

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 07: Hanley Ramirez #2 of the Miami Marlins breaks his bat during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on June 7, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was told something about Hanley Ramirez's batting average at home versus on the road. Apparently, after last night's game, Ramirez is hitting .315/.397/.504 (.387 wOBA) at home and just .195/.258/.416 (.299 wOBA) on the road. Of course, after Guillen casually told us that he doesn't care about numbers but rather about wins, an attitude that is simply ludicrous but can at times be advantageous, he said this:

"Hanley has had huge hits for us, big ones," Guillen said. "Very inconsistent. I wish he had more consistency, day in, day out. But in the meanwhile, he's going to be my third hitter. Hopefully he's going to get better. To me, every day, we don't know what we're going to get."

I mean, is that true? Has Ramirez been inconsistent so far this season? I took a look at Hanley's game wOBA throughout 2012 so far this season to find out. I also looked at the absolute value of the difference between one game and the next and found the average of that. The way you can find how "consistent" Ramirez has been is to take a look at the standard deviation of his game wOBA. Standard deviation is a measure of variance, showing if Ramirez's games had more big games and hitless nights or if they were consistently close to his average.

You can also look at the average difference between consecutive game wOBA and the deviation in that, a sort of "average deviation." These numbers will show whether Ramirez on a day-to-day basis was pretty even or if he changed a lot from game to game.

Ramirez Average Std Dev
Game wOBA .336 .280
Game+1 wOBA - Game wOBA .259 .218

There are the numbers. But what do those mean? We need a little bit of context. For that, let us take a look at a few more players to see if their game-to-game offensive performances vary greatly.

Exploring the Marlins' Consistency

How about the Marlins' best offensive player, Giancarlo Stanton?

Stanton Average Std Dev
Game wOBA .384 .255
Game+1 wOBA - Game wOBA .259 .198

Maybe it was just the fact that Stanton was so good in May, but he has been more consistent than Ramirez thus far this season. What about the rest of the team? Here are the the five players on the Marlins with at least 200 PA.

Player Game wOBA Avg Game wOBA StdDev
Hanley Ramirez .336 .280
Giancarlo Stanton .384 .255
Omar Infante .349 .321
Jose Reyes .311 .199
Logan Morrison .298 ,269

Reyes has been the most consistent hitter on the team, but we all know that he has only started heating up in May and again in June. Prior to that, he may have just been consistently bad, but now overall he has so far been consistently mediocre, as he has the lowest standard deviation among the team's hitters.

Player Game+1-Game Avg Game+1-Game StdDev
Hanley Ramirez .259 .218
Giancarlo Stanton .259 .198
Omar Infante .322 .292
Jose Reyes .225 .165
Logan Morrison .322 ,292

Again, it has been Reyes who has remained the most consistent player on the team, even in these measures. This shows that not only have Reyes's performances overall have been closest to his average, but day-to-day he has maintained that average better than anyone else on the team. Omar Infante, who was lauded in April for a hot start, has cooled off and has been the team's most inconsistent hitter. It is actually understandable, as much of Infante's game is based on results on balls in play. Sometimes, those grounders find holes, and sometimes they find gloves. As a result, Infante has not been very consistent in any measure.

Is It Important?

The important question now is whether this even matters. Why does Ramirez need to be "consistent?" Are the best hitters in baseball even consistent? Let's look at how Ramirez's consistency fares versus four of the best hitters in baseball right now.

Player Game wOBA Avg Game wOBA StdDev
Hanley Ramirez .336 .280
Joey Votto .463 .302
Josh Hamilton .446 .329
David Wright .418 .252
Ryan Braun .412 ,328

As you can see, among these five hitters, four of them in top ten in wOBA in baseball, Ramirez is actually the second most consistent player. Only Wright has been more even-keeled compared to his overall performance. Josh Hamilton, who is having an absolute sensational season, has had the most up and down games among these five and more of a topsy-turvy season than the five Marlins listed before.

Player Game+1-Game Avg Game+1-Game StdDev
Hanley Ramirez .259 .218
Joey Votto .378 .263
Josh Hamilton .313 .321
David Wright .280 .206
Ryan Braun .374 ,305

Again, David Wright here has been the most consistent game-to-game player, but Hanley Ramirez is not far behind. But the other three top hitters have all been mostly inconsistent with their play, which has to tell you something about the value of consistency. If top players do not necessarily do it, then what is the value of consistency?

The Meaning of Consistency

When Ozzie Guillen says "consistency," what he means is "consistently good." Indeed, for offense it would be beneficial for teams to be consistent in terms of how many runs they score, and a good deal of that has to do with their players. But Cyril Morong of Cybermetrics found that while consistency has an effect, it is a much smaller effect than simply scoring or preventing more runs. In other words, consistency is good, but just getting those runs is better.

The same should be applied to individual hitters. Yes, consistency has an effect, but our small sample of examples shows that even the best hitters are not necessarily consistent. There are games in which the best hitters will get three hits or blast two home runs, and there are plenty of others when they will get nothing at the plate. It does not change the fact that they have been the best hitters in that time span, which is far more important to the team.

It is a similar situation for Ramirez; Guillen wants him to hit .315/.397/.504 both at home and on the road. That is not necessarily being consistent so much as it is being better. It would behoove Ramirez not necessarily to have a smaller distribution of his play, but rather just to play better and produce more for the Marlins, regardless of how that production is distributed. It is a cliche that managers, coaches, and media use the word "consistent" as a positive factor when they really imply that they want players to be consistently on their good side instead of having bad games. This just does not happen for most hitters, even the best ones. For now, Ramirez should just focus on having a consistent approach at the plate, something systematic, and let the results fall where they may.

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