Baseball is a crazy game. On any given day, the best players in the league can step up to the plate and strike out four times. On the other hand, even the worst players in the majors are still more than capable of going off for a random four hit game. Chris Davis was struggling worse than any baseball player in the history of the sport, going 54 consecutive at-bats without a hit, but even he was able to walk into a four game series at Fenway and go 4-for-13 with a home run and 6 RBI.
In today’s edition of Patience or Panic, we’ll take a look at a few guys who are off to some pretty awful starts to their 2019 seasons (not as bad as that of Chris Davis, of course) and try to determine whether they’ll be able to turn it around or if there’s legitimate cause for concern. Keep in mind that we are still just three weeks into the season and sample sizes are still fairly small, making this far from an easy task.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians) – .150 AVG, 8 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 5 SB
After a career year last season that saw him hit 39 homers to go with 34 steals, Jose Ramirez has been extremely underwhelming in the early part of 2019. Nine hits through 16 games is certainly not what you had hoped for when you spent a first round pick on the infielder. Part of the reason for this is because he’s just not making as much contact as he did in the past. Ramirez currently has a career high strikeout rate of 15.2%: a full 4% higher than his career average of 11.2%. And when he does make contact with the ball, he isn’t hitting it where he wants — pulling the ball just 27.5% of the time. This is ridiculously low for Ramirez, who has a career pull rate of 43.7%, including an insane 50% pull rate a season ago. Instead, he’s hitting the ball to opposite field a career high 31.4% of the time, nearly 8% more than his career average. This has led to a career high 27.5% soft contact rate, up 9.2% from last year.
However, things are not all bad for the 26-year-old. Ramirez has a BABIP of just .160 through the first three weeks of the season. This is an outrageously low number that signals he has very likely been the victim of some bad luck at the plate thus far. With a career BABIP of .289, there is guaranteed to be some positive regression as the season progresses, which will lead to more hits and more run-producing opportunities. It is also entirely possible that his slow start has been due in part to the knee injury he suffered shortly before the season started. While he wasn’t forced to miss any games, he likely was not 100% to begin the year. All in all, Ramirez is way too talented of a player to simply give up on him three weeks into the season. He’ll be back to his top-tier production levels in no time.
Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers) – .160 AVG, 5 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB
Jesus Aguilar took the baseball world by storm a season ago, breaking out for 35 long balls with a solid .274 batting average in just his second full season in the big leagues. This year, it’s as if he doesn’t even exist. Aguilar has essentially done nothing through 15 games played. Earlier I said that nobody could have gotten off to a worse start to the season than Chris Davis, but this one is really close. Aguilar has a .200 slugging percentage, somehow 71 points lower than his on base percentage. Even worse than that, he has an utterly atrocious ISO of .043. His power has seemingly vanished right in front of our eyes, as he has just two extra base hits thus far. His soft contact rate is up to a career high 23.7%, nearly 8% higher than his career average. To his credit, his BABIP sits at just .184, so there is some positive regression likely coming his way. Aguilar is also making better contact this year, with a career low strikeout rate of 15.8%, 10% lower than last season. As nice as that is however, Aguilar is a power hitter, so until he finds his power again, he isn’t going to carry nearly the same value for your fantasy team. With the Brewers having a very capable backup in Eric Thames, it’s very possible that Aguilar doesn’t have much time to figure things out before he finds himself on the bench.
Carlos Carrasco (SP, Cleveland Indians) – 1-2, 12.60 ERA, 2.50 WHIP, 17 K, 10 IP
Carlos Carrasco has gotten off to a rough start this year, giving up six earned runs in two of his three starts. Those starts weren’t exactly against the league’s most imposing lineups, either, in the Twins and Royals. So far, Carrasco’s velocity has been slightly down on every pitch, and it has resulted in him getting shelled. Batters are making hard contact against Carrasco an astounding 61.8% of the time. This is the worst hard contact rate in the league to date among all pitchers with more than 25 batted ball events. The decrease in velocity has also allowed batters to pull the ball 47.1% of the time: 8% more than batters were able to do against Carrasco a season ago.
On the bright side, Carrasco is still managing to miss some bats, as his 30.9% strikeout rate is right in line with his career numbers and even 1.4% higher than last year. Additionally, batters have hit for an absurd .613 BABIP against Carrasco this season and his LOB% is a less-than-ideal 55.1%. While these disastrous numbers can be partially attributed to opposing batters bludgeoning the baseball against him, there is simply no way these stats don’t regress back toward his career averages of .309 and 73%, respectively. For now, I think you have to trust that Carrasco will right the ship soon enough, as he’s simply too talented to struggle like this much longer.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)