Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Friday, May 29, 2015

Aramis Ramirez Appreciation Column

     Quick, who's the most underrated third baseman of the last fifteen years? You said Adrian Beltre without blinking, didn't you? It has to be him. He's the best fielding third baseman since Brooks Robinson, he has 2650 career hits and nobody pays any attention to him! Wait, what's that? He's finished in the top 15 in MVP voting six time in his career? And lots of people consider him a future hall of famer? Oh. Maybe he's worn out his welcome in the underrated player house. If you want a truly underrated third baseman, look no further than Aramis Ramirez.
     He's probably not headed to Cooperstown like Beltre, but just for fun, let's compare him to all the other third basemen who have played since he's first joined the Pirates in 1998. Of all those players, he ranks third in homers with 374. The only people he's behind are Beltre and Chipper Jones. He's also second in slugging percentage behind only Jones. He's also done all this playing in mainly pitchers' ballparks. Miller Park is advantageous toward hitters, but he's only played four years there, while he spent the other 14 in pitchers fields Wrigley Field and PNC Park.
     What's more impressive is how he manages to get the bat on the ball even while hitting those homers. Of the top 27 home run hitting third basemen during his career, Ramirez has the second lowest strikeout rate at 13.9%.
     While Ramirez isn't known for his fielding, he's been about average his entire career. He led the league in fielding percentage twice and finished in the top five of range factor per game three times. Just those accomplishments make him better than contemporaries Troy Glaus and Chipper Jones.
     Ramirez became underrated because he doesn't have a calling card. He rarely does anything amazingly but is just steady. A typical year for Ramirez since he started playing regularly in 2000 is .274/.346/.503 line with 24 homers. He's only had one great season in his career, in 2012 when he hit .300/.360/.540 with 27 round-trippers and an absurd 50 doubles. Of course, nobody noticed because it happened in Milwaukee where the Brewers finished 83-79 and the biggest story was Ryan Braun winning MVP.
     That's another theme of Ramirez's career: Either being on mediocre teams or overshadowed. Of his eighteen seasons, he's spent 10 of them in either Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. While the other nine were in Chicago, he still never got the attention he deserved, either being on terrible teams or good teams where he was overshadowed by Derrek Lee. Here's my advice to any baseball fan: Try to watch a few Brewers games this year. You can appreciate Ramirez before he's gone.

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