Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers – #16 Aramis Ramirez

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Sweet 16!

With the NCAA’s “Selection Sunday” on deck tomorrow for college basketball, the tournament’s third round moniker felt appropriate because being only 16 days away from Opening Day at Miller Park is certainly sweet.

We’re nearing the end of this year’s “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” countdown, but we’ve still got a lot of hitters to profile between now and April 1st. And after a three-day break, let’s get right back into as we look at…

AramisRamirez

Aramis Ramirez.

Ramirez came to the Brewers last year with a lot of expectations. He was signed to bat clean up, “protect” Ryan Braun, and provide an offensive upgrade from the “Hot Corner” over departing starter Casey McGehee. The one expectation that wasn’t on Ramirez entering 2012 was great defense. It was assumed that Ramirez would be dependable at third, but unspectacular. Reliable, but limited.

For all of that, though, Ramirez exceeded what most everyone had him pegged for. He posted a season line of .300/.360/.540 (.901 OPS), 171 H, 92 R, 50 doubles, 3 triples, 27 HR, 105 RBI, only 82 K, 44 BB, all in 630 PA and 570 AB across 149 games. From his 2011 season, Ramirez bettered himself nearly across the board.

Defensively, Ramirez had himself in the Gold Glove conversation late in the year. He nearly set the consecutive errorless games streak by a third baseman if not for a pair of dropped popups in foul territory. He came in a bunts and dribblers extremely well, flashing a barehanded pick and throw move to first that was flawless. His reaction was far better than advertised coming out of Chicago and he was more accurate than anyone in the Windy City would have had you believe.

I also feel it necessary to mention Ramirez’ baserunning on its own. It wasn’t completely ridiculous in a vacuum as Ramirez only stole nine bases, but when his previous career high was five (in 2001 at the age of 23), he’d never again stolen more than two in a season before or since, and even had seven full seasons of zero stolen bases…well, the 9-of-11 (81.8% success rate) was phenomenal in a relative sense.

About the only thing Ramirez lived down to was his notoriously slow start. It hasn’t always been the case, but April was once again brutal for Ramirez as he limped out of the gate with a .214/.264/.381 slash line. May was better but still below average at .274/.364/.484, but as the weather heated up, Ramirez did likewise. Ramirez peaked in July at .373/.409/.608 (1.017 OPS) and actually slugged better still in August when he posted a season-high .642 SLG thanks to his eight home runs in the month.

Ramirez put together a great season despite being 34 years old for the majority of it. Will be eventually decline like every other human being? Of course. Do the Brewers hope that they gave him the perfect length contract to get out before the decline begins? Absolutely. That being said, the Brewers will be looking to Ramirez to not only duplicate the full-season numbers but to also perhaps spread out that production a bit more evenly. Though to hear Ramirez tell it, if he could only start hot he’d have a few MVP trophies on his mantle at home.

The first hurdle to that goal appears to have been overcome by Ramirez. He sprained his knee sliding into second base two weeks ago as I write this. Following the ACL tears of both Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez in 2012 and then Gamel again this year, Brewers fans immediately feared the absolute worst. It sounded at the time from a friend in attendance that Ramirez walked off with only a slight limp. The media reported that he looked okay enough after the game, but the next day when Ramirez showed up to camp the next day with a noticeable limp, he was scheduled for an MRI. He didn’t have the telltale swelling that accompanies a torn ACL, so he was cautiously optimistic but said at the time that he was “not feeling too good right now.” Luckily, it was just the sprain and after just under two weeks off to rest it, Ramirez returned to the lineup for the Brewers.

With all of the question marks surrounding the Brewers rotation as they enter the regular season, the offense absolutely needs to be there along the way. To his credit, before the injury Ramirez and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had discussed a plan to try to get Ramirez over his early season woes. Part of that seemed to include an increase in the amount of Cactus League at-bats Ramirez would see. After missing nearly two weeks and needing to understandably take things slow for at least another week, time has run out on getting Ramirez that much work. Still, hopefully something clicks this year that hasn’t done so very often in the past and Ramirez will enter April all heated up.

The thing about Ramirez is that even if he starts slow, he nearly always rebounds well. Part of that I think is due to many players wearing down as the summer gets long and Ramirez having a specific process which he follows to keep himself fresh throughout the year. In other words, as others tend to slow down, Ramirez stays even and the difference then works out in favor of Ramirez. Then again, that’s just a theory which isn’t based on any research. Perhaps that’s something I’ll look into more as this season progresses.

Before it can progress though, it needs to begin. That happens 16 days from the posting of this article.

Super sweet.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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