Baseball doesn’t officially start until Jose Ramirez gets on his first hot streak. And If a week is enough time to call a baseball player “hot,” then by gosh we have ourselves a baseball season.
Jose started his 2018 campaign with a nightmare 39 plate appearences in which he slashed .061/.205/.152. The good news? Fifty percent of his hits went for home runs. The bad news? He only had two hits.
Still, for anyone who has ever watched Ramirez in the past, or glanced at his peripherals this season, there was never any real reason to worry.
Even during Ramirez’s ice cold start, he was walking a lot (six walks in 39 plate appearances), and he was hitting the ball hard. But much like his teammates, luck just wasn’t on his side with a .033 batting average on balls in play. That decimal place didn’t get lost on its way home — Jose’s BABIP was just that bad through the first nine games and it wasn’t getting any better, despite the telltale signs of a breakout coming eventually.
Turn the clock (or your FanGraphs Game Log dates) ahead to April 9, and a radically different stat line magically appears. He’s still walking since his 10-game hitting streak started back on the 9th against the Detroit Tigers, but it’s actually 0.2 percent less than he was walking during the cold start. And, oh yeah, he’s still hitting the ball hard.
So what did he change? That’s the amazing thing — basically nothing.
The hits just started falling, he kept walking, and the warmer weather helped some of his close calls, like this robbery by Ichiro Suzuiki, get over walls, like his two home runs against the Baltimore Orioles Sunday.
All percentages are still too low to make sweeping judgments, but taking Jose’s plate discipline at face value over the first month or so of the season, he’s better than ever at pitch recognition and making contact. He’s swinging at just 20.9 percent of pitches outside of the zone (down from his 26.3 percent career rate), and he’s making contact 91.3 percent of the time (up from 88.3 percent career rate). The only player in baseball making better contact in baseball right now is Joe Panik, who is having bat meet ball 91.5 percent of the time. It’s not a coincidence that Panik and Ramirez are tied for the second-lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 7.1 percent.
This kind of contact is quickly becoming abnormal in today’s game. Jeff Passan wrote an excellent article Monday morning about the “Strikeout Era” baseball finds itself in. On average, hitters strike out 23 percent of the time across baseball, and that number is only going to grow. Meanwhile, Jose Ramirez isn’t missing a damn thing, he’s not chasing, and he’s still a huge power threat.
Because making contact is great, but what is he actually doing with the ball when he hits Decimating it. Especially against left-handed pitchers.
To see that 100+ mile per hour exit velocity in action, look no further than Sunday night against the Orioles when he hit a fastball up in the zone 101.7 miles per hour for his first home run of the afternoon.
Over the last seven days, only Manny Machado and his five Corey Kluber-killing home runs tops the four dingers that Ramirez has hit. He’s already at seven on the season; he didn’t reach that mark until May 26 in 2017, when he hit a career 29 home runs. Is there a single person in the world still worried about his supposed “slow” start? Will anyone take this lesson and realize that two weeks of a season doesn’t mean a player is suddenly awful for life? The answer to both those questions is no.
I’m not really sure what the point of this post is besides “Holy hell look at how good Jose Ramirez is, you guys.” I have no in-depth ideas of why Jose is good (other than everything), and I don’t have any ideas on how he could get even better (other than losing his helmet more), but... holy hell look at good Jose Ramirez is, you guys.