So, you want to stop Jose Ramirez.
You can’t pitch to him in the zone, he’ll crush it. You can’t pitch to him out of the zone, he won’t bite. You could try rolling the ball to him, but I hear he’s got a great golf game. So what’s left to do? You walk him.
That’s exactly what teams have been trying lately after it seemed to work another certain baseball superstar, but it’s not very effective on The Angry Hamster.
Jose’s walk rate has ballooned to levels he hasn’t seen since, well, ever. He’s drawn a free base in 14.9 percent of his at-bats this season, and all it’s done is help his on-base percentage skyrocket to .402 and push his wRC+ to a Mike Troutian (on a slow week) 171.
Rate stats might not do the amount of walks he’s taken justice, though.
Consider that, this season, Jose Ramirez has 336 plate appearances this season in 75 total games. In 2016 and 2017 — his first two seasons as a full-time starter — he had 618 and and 645 plate appearances, respectively. In 2018, Jose has already drawn 50 walks, just two fewer than he drew in all of last season, and six more than the 44 he drew in 2016. He also already has a career-high seven intentional walks this season (third most in the American League behind Manny Machado and Mike Trout), compared to five in 2017 and just one in 2016.
Remember Carlos Santana? That famous Mexican-American musician who drew 726 in his illustrious career with the Indians? He’s at 55 walks so far this season, and one of only a handful of players to be ahead of Ramirez in walks this season, including the aforementioned baseball superstar, Bryce Harper.
Harper’s frustrations with walking are well-documented that this point, and teams are using it to quiet his bat in arguably his most important season to date. Said his manager, Dave Martinez:
For [Harper], I’m sure it’s frustrating, but I think he’s doing a great job taking these walks. He’ll get pitches to hit but when he gets them he just can’t miss them.
I’m choosing to read between the lines a bit here. There is no “I’m sure” about the feelings of Bryce Harper. If his manager is actually coming out and saying that, I don’t doubt it’s been made very clearly, one way or another, that he hates being walked.
It’s certainly not just the walks, but Harper has been visibly upset a lot this season, and he’s even gone so far as to shave his legendary beard as some sort of appeasement to the baseball gods to improve his 119 wRC+. So far it hasn’t worked, and the walks haven’t stopped.
You know who never hear or see those same frustrations from? Jose Ramirez.
After wrapping a series against the Chicago White Sox in which he was walked five times in 13 plate appearances, Jose had this to say when asked if he was frustrated with the amount of walks he took in the series.
No, not really, I just go up there with a plan to go up there and make good swings on pitches that I’m looking for and if they’re not good pitches, I can’t control that.
Later in the same interview, he jokingly said that the pitch he jacked for a three-run homer late in the game was a “home run pitch.” Nothing seems to change his mindset of killing baseballs.
At the conclusion of that series against the White Sox, Jose hit that three-run home run that was ultimately inconsequential to the 12-0 win, but it came late in the game after he drew two walks. After the White Sox did everything they could to avoid giving him something to hit and maybe frustrate him like other super stars. It didn’t work. It almost never does.
In 11 games this season where Jose has drawn two or more walks, he’s at least one hit in seven of them, and he’s homered three times. Not to pick on Bryce Harper too much here, but in 14 games where he’s been walked two or more times, he’s been blanked nine times. That’s all noise on a super-small scale, but it’s a microcosm of Ramirez’s stubborn attitude (in the best possible way) that has led to him being one of the game’s most underappreciated superstar.