Hanley Ramirez is making hard contact to begin the year
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (March 28, 2018 – Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America)
It is extremely early into the 2018 season to make much of anything. After all, there have only been two games in the books. While data exists, most of it is meaningless because the sample size is so small. You have to squint to find something article-worthy at this point in the season and that is exactly what I did.
Yesterday afternoon I ran this Twitter poll in the form of a trivia question.
Let’s see who paid attention closely to last night’s game! Red Sox Unfiltered Daily Trivia. Test your knowledge and try not to cheat. According to Statcast, which #RedSox player hit the ball with the highest exit velocity on Opening Day?
— Red Sox Unfiltered (@bosoxunfiltered) March 30, 2018
As of this writing, only six percent, or one voter, got this question right. Hanley Ramirez, with his 111.3 mph fielder’s choice off a Chris Archer fastball, was the hardest-hit ball on Opening Day for Boston. Now, the caveat is it was merely a groundball, limiting its effectiveness. Ultimately, it was fielded for an easy out because the launch angle was not ideal (-3.1). It is much harder to find success hitting balls hard into the dirt than into the air.
Anyway, this is still a good sign, probably. By my count, it was the 13th-highest exit velocity of any batted ball on March 29th, which was Opening Day for 26 teams. Good stuff.
It is even more encouraging that he did the same thing in Boston’s second game of the year. Facing Blake Snell, Ramirez took a pitch up the middle for a groundball single at 114.9 mph. The launch angle on this bad boy was still a meager 4.9 but it is still the fifth-hardest hit baseball of the young 2018 season. Two games in a row of 110+ mph balls. That is impressive but we need a bit of context, here.
In 2017, the highest exit velocity attained by any player was none other than Giancarlo Stanton with a “duck-in-cover that shit is coming fast” 122.2 mph hit ball. Meanwhile, the highest average exit velocity on the season was courtesy of Aaron Judge, averaging 94.9 mph on his batted ball events.
Those are the extremes we are working with. Let’s check out how Hanley Ramirez fared in those categories last year. With an average 88.4 exit velocity, HanRam placed 127th in the league among qualifiers, while the hardest ball he hit in all of 2017 was clocked in at 114.3 mph.
So, what does that mean, kids? Well, it means that, two games into the 2018 season, Boston’s number three hitter has already hit a ball harder than he did in all of 2017. For a player whose value is almost completely contingent on hitting balls with authority, I am pretty stoked about it.
Sure, the two hard-hit balls did not do much damage, one was an out and the other was a single. And, yes, I will concede it would have been more flashy and newsworthy had it been hit at a higher launch angle. Moreover, these small sample data points may end up being meaningless at the end of the season.
With that said, right now, I think they are not totally devoid of meaning. I think it says something about a quicker bat or even a stronger guy swinging the stick. Ultimately, Ramirez’ average exit velocity drop from 90.4 mph in ’16 to 88.4 mph in ’17 was always captivating. It was something that was going to be watched closely.
In the way-too-early stages of ’18, we are seeing harder hit balls from the right-handed hitter. If this can be accompanied by higher launch angles, then we may be in for a much improved Hanley Ramirez. One cannot make too much of a mere two games worth of data, but, working with what we have, we may be dealing with early signs of a better hitter.