Batter’s Box: Jose, Can You See?
Fourth of July. Time to play some baseball, eat hot dogs and apple pie, listen to The Star-Spangled Banner, and watch a fireworks show. You got all that in Kansas City yesterday, except the fireworks show was brought single-handedly by Jose Ramirez. Yes, that Jose Ramirez. The one at the beginning of our national anthem where we ask if he can see cause he can’t hit the ball anymore. And he got sick of us asking. Ramirez finally put some muscle behind the ball and launched a couple solo fire crackers going 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. We’re all familiar with Ramirez’s struggles this season. A first-round pick who is barely hitting over .200 with now seven homers is hard to swallow, especially when he put up a 30/30 season last year. The question to hold or sell cheap gnaws at owners looking to turn their season around as they glance back at the 2017 and 2018 stat lines, knowing what he is capable of, hoping for some kind of return to form.
The question on everyone’s mind is: How? How can a player who put together such quality seasons have an absolutely abysmal start? Every season since he got to the majors, his launch angle has increased. This year it’s grown even more so, beyond the range that is beneficial. He’s getting under the ball on about 43% of his batted balls. The other aspect of his struggles has come potentially as a result of the shift. Here is an article from Sports Illustrated detailing the battle he’s facing with the shift. He’s been trying to adjust as his rate of hits to the opposite field has grown about 5% from last year. But that can greatly hamper mechanics and get in a player’s head instead of focusing on hitting the ball well. Of course, this is still speculation but it’s clear something is wrong. Additionally, SI notes he is now struggling against the fastball. In 2017 and 2018, his slugging percentage against fastballs was .637 and .666 respectively. 2019? .340. He is whiffing on these pitches a bit more often, but it’s not that drastic. His launch angle is 27 degrees on fastballs, 5 degrees higher than last year. Something’s different with his approach, and he’ll have to figure it out before we’ll see improvements at the plate.
What does this mean as a fantasy owner? Do his two home runs yesterday change anything? They were both well-hit, decently low fly balls, driven at about 100 mph. He’ll have the All-Star break to rest and figure some things out as well. At least he’s on pace to steal just as many bags as last year.
Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. Because Rendon missed a chunk of time this season, it’s a bit hard to tell how incredible he’s been when comparing with the to the top of the league. He’s consistently one of the best hitters, but this season he’s gone to another level with a 1.022 OPS. His hard-hit rate has skyrocketed to 52.5%. He’s mainly doing this by clobbering fastballs, which he has always hit well. Now he’s just hitting them better than Mike Trout.
Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Detroit Tigers)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. Goodrum has shown some small bursts of power throughout the year, yet he’s remained consistently mediocre. Because of his performance, he was bumped from the leadoff spot further down the order. The Tigers have been jumping him between fourth and seventh the past few weeks, as he’s been striking out a bunch more and making meh contact. Most notably, his hard-hit rate plummeted from 50% in May to 30% in June.
Kris Bryant (3B/OF, Chicago Cubs)—4-5, 3 R, HR, 2 2B, RBI. Back in May, Bryant had an offensive surge capped by a three-homer night. All Bryant owners were rejoicing. He was back. The pick was worth it. But what’s happened since? In these 42 games since, he’s been great. On base nearly 40% of the time with a 138 wRC+. But what’s that? 12 RBI? I guess that could happen hitting from the 2 hole, but still. How hasn’t he driven in more runs? With how he’s been hitting, the counting stats will come.
Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs)—3-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. Talk about another Cubs bounce back. This past month has been more of the same for Contreras. He’s hitting close to .300 with a decent hard-hit rate. He’s been seeing more pitches in the zone this past month and has been attacking more pitches. This has helped him lower his strikeout rate, but he’s been consistent with his outcomes. The part I’m a bit concerned about is his HR/FB rate, which has remained around 30% all year. Before the oddity of last year, his HR/FB rate was in the lower 20s, so his homers may dip a bit the rest of the season.
Marcus Semien (SS, Oakland Athletics)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB. Who was ready for a season where Semien would forget how to strike out? The past month, he’s gotten even better. His strikeout rate is below 10% for the past month by making contact with almost every pitch he faces. His O-Contact this past month is above 80%! Always the borderline shortstop to roster, Semien has taken his skills up a notch to being closer to a must-own player.
Danny Jansen (C, Toronto Blue Jays)—3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. You’ve probably seen this guy’s name pop up in Batter’s Box quite a bit lately. His first half of the year was abysmal, but something has changed recently. He has six homers in his past seven games, with eight total on the year, and the Blue Jays have been playing him pretty consistently all season. They’re not in the race, and they have a bunch of young guys their trying to build up together. No sense in sending him down. Jansen’s fought through the struggles and has made it out the other end. My favorite part about new Jansen didn’t start during this home run barrage. Since the start of June, his strikeout rate is 11.3%. Before June? 25.5%. These past few games aren’t just a flash in the pan. Jansen is emerging as the catcher we hoped for at the beginning of the year.
Freddy Galvis (2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. It’s hard to write about how Blue Jays’ players performed on the Fourth of July. Right? It just feels wrong. But at least the Red Sox had a big comeback to defeat them in Canada. Regardless, Galvis had another solid game, continuing his solid season. This past month, he has continued hitting with a 143 wRC+. He did produce a bunch more grounders in June than earlier this season, so his .368 BABIP from the past month has kept his numbers up a bit. His luck may continue if he continues to crush the ball in July.
Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. I’m not sure what to make of Albies hitting in the bottom half of the Braves lineup. I guess that means they’ve got a pretty stacked offense. But why keep a guy with a 162 wRC+ in the past month in the 7 or 8 spot? He’s been hitting more fly balls and hitting the ball harder this past month, which has helped lead to his 1.000+ OPS. If Albies does get moved back up in the lineup, it’ll be a nice boost to the already great run and RBI totals he’s been putting up.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)—3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 5 RBI. Albies’ double play partner had himself a day at the plate as well. Swanson had taken over the 2 spot from Albies earlier in the year, but it may be time to switch back. It’s not that Swanson is struggling, it’s just Albies has been doing that much better. Swanson is still striking out around 20% of the time and has an OPS of .869 in the past month, so he is able to get on base and score a bunch of runs.
Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. Hold on, I need to check the calendar. Ah yes, it’s July now. Go pick up Odor. Once July is over, you can drop/trade him. It’s the only month he can hit a baseball.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)