Hanley Ramirez is doing OK, which is not why he’s here. He’s batting .252 with six home runs, 16 doubles and 21 RBI in 44 games. Pretty good numbers for most shortstops.
Only Ramirez is not most shortstops, or he’s not supposed to be. When he was healthy last season, he was the most feared hitter in the Dodgers lineup. The ball exploded off his bat. He was something to see.
He’s not that guy right now, and despite his home run Sunday, hasn’t been at any time this season -- but particularly since he injured his thumb on April 26.
Since that time he’s batted .228, with .307 on-base and .405 slugging percentages. Last season his numbers were .345/.402/.638. Ramirez insists his thumb is fine, but as all my stat-wonk friends will tell you, stats don’t lie.
Ramirez bruised the thumb when he hit a ball off the end of the bat, the same thumb he had surgery on last year. He missed only one full game after the injury.
But he is not the same player, at the plate or on the field. Only one shortstop in the National League has more than his seven errors and his range isn’t exactly getting any better.
Yet he keeps playing and the Dodgers keep putting him out there, and you have to wonder about that. Ramirez can be a free agent at the end of the season, and he and the Dodgers have been involved in contract talks for months. After two stints on the disabled list last season, he needs to prove he can stay healthy. But putting up comparatively routine numbers is not exactly boosting his negotiating position.
The Dodgers really have no one behind him, so you can appreciate how they want to keep playing him and figure the thumb is either good enough or headed in that direction.
But this is a situation best served by looking long term. You can’t wait to rest him in September for the playoffs if there are no playoffs. They need – and miss – the Ramirez who swung the bat with authority.
Long term, the Dodgers would be best served by placing him on the 15-day disabled list and trying to let that thumb completely heal, not keep aggravating it with continued swings. They could get by for a couple of weeks with Justin Turner and Chone Figgins if necessary.
One indication the Dodgers are at least contemplating the move could be that prized prospect Alex Guerrero played his first game at shortstop Monday for triple-A Albuquerque. Guerrero (.355) was a shortstop in Cuba before the Dodgers switched him to second in the minors. The Isotopes' other shortstops are Miguel Rojas (.272), Walter Ibarra (.241) and Carlos Triunfel (.206).
Trying to play through injury doesn’t really help Ramirez or the team. Ramirez reportedly is seeking a contract in excess of the $130 million Shin-Soo Choo signed with the Rangers last off-season after he hit .285/.423/.462 in 154 games.
Ramirez has played at least 150 games only once in the last four seasons. He’s had shoulder surgery, thumb surgery, a hamstring strain, cracked ribs and now the thumb again. You can understand how he wants to play through this.
But for his sake, and that of the team, the wise move would be to let the thumb completely heal. Put him on the DL; he’s just not right.