Yesterday, we pointed out one reason for the hot month of May from the Miami Marlins, and that was Jose Reyes and his patience. The Fish have obviously gotten a mammoth May performance from Giancarlo Stanton (and we will have more on that when the month ends) which has propelled the offense this month. But another reason why the Marlins have a shot at 20 wins this month is because of Hanley Ramirez's strong performance in the month.
Clearly, Ramirez has been hot in the month of May, but much of that has been a simple rise in his BABIP; Ramirez has hit .321 on balls in play in May after hitting just .228 in April. So what story is there to tell about him right now?
His power is back.
This sign is highly encouraging, because Ramirez's power had been slipping over the last two seasons, and the reasons seemed pretty clear at the time. Yet, even as we look now, we see that while Ramirez's power is up again to career levels, he has not completely gotten rid of the old habit that bit into his power the last few years.Grounded Down
Since 2010, Hanley Ramirez had suffered from being grounded. What I mean by that is that, all of a sudden, Ramirez began hitting ground balls. A lot of ground balls, actually.
It is very clear that Ramirez was not getting his power numbers and was suffering from slipping ISO because of a lack of balls in the air. He was pretty even on grounders and fly balls in his MVP-caliber years, but in the last two struggling seasons, his ground ball rate went up to 51 percent and the home runs and doubles in particular have fallen.
*"BC" stands for contacted ball, which is any ball in play including home runs
Ramirez lost both extra bases on and off the field thanks in part to those extra ground balls. We know that his shoulder and back were struggling in 2011 as well, and that could have contributed to him not getting any lift on the balls he hit. Ramirez's injuries certainly played a role last season, but with his renewed health in 2012, one would expect that these changes from the last two seasons would begin to subside and regress to Ramirez's career marks.
What's Happened in 2012
The numbers from his season thus far are actually quite similar to the ones he has posted over the course of his career. In his career, 8.6 percent of Ramirez's contacted balls have gone for doubles or triples, and he has more or less matched that this season. His career rate of home runs per contacted ball is also around 4.9 percent, meaning that Ramirez has basically been his career self in terms of power so far this season. This is encouraging news, because despite the fact that it is not at the level of his MVP-caliber years, it represents some good regression to something closer to his old self after a miserable 2011.
Perhaps Ramirez has corrected some of this issue simply by getting more balls in the air.
The ground ball numbers are back in line to some degree with his previous 2006 to 2009 marks. He is hitting fewer line drives, in particular this month. In fact, in the month of May, Ramirez has a higher ISO despite a higher ground ball rate, yet only one of his extra base hits in the entire season has come off of a ground ball. This means that none of his extra base hits so far this season have been cheap shots that have gotten past the first baseman and instead have all been well-hit balls. Despite the ironic increase in power during a grounder-laden month of May, it seems that Ramirez's power is back.
Prospects Are Bright
With almost everything lining up according to Ramirez's career rates, the only thing left for Marlins fans to see is his BABIP correct itself over the course of the season. He has already upped that mark to .277 this season, which is just around what he hit on balls in play last year. His previous career low was the .327 mark he hit in 2010, and it is not far-fetched that, with a hot month at the plate, he could reach mark again this season. ZiPS projects a .308 BABIP going forward and not much improvement from here on out to his seasonal line, but Marlins fans can at least remain optimistic about the chances of a return to at least the 2010 model of Ramirez. He may not be back to full form, but Marlins fans should be happy to hear that the skills he flashed as a 25 or 26 year-old have not yet disappeared.