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2011 Marlins Season Review: Shortstop

The Marlins fared decently at shortstop in 2011, but it was not on the back of the player they expected. Rather than depending on star shorstop Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins were left to lean on Emilio Bonifacio. That was actually not a bad thing last year, as Bonifacio outperformed the majority of our expectations and played very well last season.

However, the big story remains the 2011 downfall of Ramirez, who was expected to help carry the ballclub and instead was one of two important players that brought about its poor season. Ramirez's poor play in 2011 and eventual injury really sank any of the team's chances of competing for a playoff spot, as the Marlins desperately needed their best player to even reach competitive status.

2011 - Hanley Ramirez 92 385 .243 .333 .379 .317 97 1.3 0.5

The Good

There may not have been much good to Ramirez's season, but one can always hang their hat on the fact that he never really even got to finish that season. Prior to his season-ending shoulder injury (on a play during which he went all out and dove, no less), Ramirez was hitting more than decently.

April-May 2011 207 .210 .306 .309
June-Aug 2011 178 .280 .365 .458

Now, is that line Ramirez put up after his initial injury a good one? Not really, at least not at his standards. But one figures that Ramirez was probably on his way back up before getting hurt, and it was a shame that the Marlins did not get to see him regressing back to something resembling the old Ramirez.

June-Aug 2011 178 .280 .365 .458
PECOTA 2011 Proj 207 .305 .383 .491

Yes, it's not exactly the same, but Ramirez was trending upwards the last we checked on him, and it would have been interesting to see what he could have done by the end of the season. It helps that his peripherals outside of power had not changed slightly from his career numbers, at least in terms of strikeouts and walks. Ramirez's 17.1 percent strikeout rate and 10.8 percent walk rate compare very favorably with his career 16.2 and 9.8 percent career rates respectively. When we look at his plate discipline numbers, we see changes that are not surprising nor alarming.

Ramirez Swing% Contact% Zone Swing% Outside Swing% Zone Contact% Outside Contact%
2011 41 81 57 25 89 62
2010 46 83 65 30 92 68

Ramirez cut down on swings in 2011 compared to 2010, but his selectivity was similarly affected, as he did not significantly change his ratio of swings outside versus in side the strike zone. His contact rates were lower in 2011, but again, there was nothing alarming with these numbers and they remain favorable markers for the future. Essentially, much of the problems with Ramirez lied in BABIP and power.

The Bad

The problem is that the power has slipped for the second season in a row. In 2009, the change was not so alarming because there were no major underlying factors; the change from 2008 to 2009 was just a regression back from a career power season. That's neither surprising nor problematic. However, there was one major change in 2010 and 2011 that posed a big problem for Ramirez.

Ramirez XB/H ISO GB% HR/FB%
2006-2009 0.678 .215 42.0 13.3
2010-2011 0.576 .160 51.0 13.0

The power is clearly down, but you cannot blame the lack of home runs. Ramirez has hit homers at about the same rate of his fly balls throughout his career (career 13.2 percent HR/FB rate), but now he is hitting fewer fly balls then ever. This 2011 season was the second straight year during which Ramirez hit grounders of 51 percent of balls in play, and those ground balls have done more than anything else to sink his power for the past two seasons.

Ultimately, as much as Marlins fans may want to look towards the post-June improvement of Ramirez, the truth is that he also didn't play well at the beginning of the season, and as uncharacteristic and unlikely to be repeated as that beginning was, it still happeend and still counts. Ramirez's meager line in 2011 brings his three-year average down to .303/.380/.480, which seems difficult to believe given his .342/.410/.543 line in 2009. The lack of power, combined with the odd but likely somewhat reversible change in BABIP, have really brought Ramirez's stock down.

Of course, his injuries could not be ignored as well. Ramirez suffered not only from lower back inflammation that he said started at the beginning of the season, but also from a season-ending injury to his left shoulder that required surgery to "re-stabilize" the joint. Prior to 2010, Ramirez had missed all but 30 games in his career due to minor bumps and bruises, but there were some who felt that he was due for a major injury season, and he finally had one in 2011.

The Rest

The Marlins had Bonifacio man shortstop for much of 2011, but he was not a great defender there according to the stats, and that agrees with the general idea that he has not been a good infielder since coming up to the majors in 2008. Nevertheless, he did bring a decent bat last season, and that cannot be overlooked. The Marlins will look to move him to a more permanent position in 2012. The team's only other infield backup was Ozzie Martinez, who was traded in the move to acquire Ozzie Guillen. Alfredo Amezaga made a short return to the Marlins before fading back into obscurity again.

What do you Fish Stripers think? How disappointed were you Ramirez's failed 2011 campaign?