Overall, the Red Sox have gotten off to a good start. It’s been something of a mixed bag, but the results have definitely leaned towards the positive side of things. On the pitching side of things, the starters were mostly outstanding in each of their first starts. Sure, each of them showed some early-season warts, and they weren’t playing the best offenses the league has to offer, but their performances were promising. The second go-around didn't get off to the best possible start, but there's time to make that up. In the bullpen, it hasn’t been quite as encouraging. Edward Mujica, of course, was a big reason we sat through that 19-inning affair on Friday. Alexi Ogando had a rough go of it on Saturday, too.
What we have all been looking forward to, though, has been the offense. As a group, they’ve certainly had their moments, and they’ve also been made to look very bad by Aaron Harang. Individually, there have been more bright spots than dark ones, with Mike Napoli being the only one who has really put together a string of unfortunate at bats. Of course, if this was happening in June, it wouldn’t even be noticeable. The man I want to focus on is Hanley Ramirez. At the plate, he’s looked dynamic. In the field, he’s looked much less than that. It’s been a fun and fascinating start of the year for the new left fielder.
Ramirez has come to the plate 27 times in this young season. Eight of those at bats have gone for hits, with three of those leaving the park. He’s drawn one walk and has gone down by way of the K* twice. The strikeouts have come against the immortal Harang and Luis Garcia. Diving a little bit deeper, Ramirez has been able to make some good contact in the early going. The eye test has confirmed what these numbers say, as the ball has visibly been jumping off his bat. Can we use these numbers to project the rest of his season? Probably not! But it’s been fun to watch, and that’s all we have right now.
*Orsillo doesn’t get enough credit for this saying.
As mentioned above, the 31-year-old has hit two long balls this year. If you remember correctly, he came extremely close to hitting another one in lone loss of the season. Let’s take a deeper look into these dingers.
Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The first home run came in Ramirez’s third at bat of the year off Cole Hamels. The much-publicized trade target was supposed to throw his lethal change up down away, but missed his spot and left it belt-high and over the plate. This gave Ramirez a chance to extend his arms and he deposited it about six rows into the left field bleachers.
The second one came later in that game with the bases loaded. Jake Diekman, who has struggled against right-handed hitting in his career, hung a slider right in Ramirez’s wheelhouse. It was a flat 84 MPH breaking ball and Ramirez turned on it and demolished it into the foul pole.
The third one may have been the most fun, though it came from a game last night which was decidedly not fun. Masahiro Tanaka was one the mound, and though he missed his spot by a bit, he missed it out of the zone. The slider was right off the outside corner of the plate in the lower portion of the zone, and Ramirez was able to take it out of one of the deepest parts of the park.
Then, we have the close-but-no-cigar grand slam from the following night. With the bases loaded, two outs and the Red Sox down two in the ninth, Ramirez stepped to the plate against Jonathan Papelbon. The latter made a mistake and hung a bad slider right down the heart of the plate, and the former capitalized. Off the bat, it was a no-doubt home run. The weather had something to say about that, though, and the ball was caught 374 feet from the plat win front of the wall. On almost any other day, that’s probably a home run. Still, it’s another example of what Ramirez can do when the pitcher makes a mistake.
So, offensively, Ramirez has been a whole lot of fun to watch. Defensively, he’s also been a whole lot of fun to watch, though in a completely different way. Did you enjoy watching Manny Ramirez and Jonny Gomes play left field? If you answered yes, then you’ve thoroughly enjoyed the early-season glove work from Hanley. The good thing is he hasn't made an error yet. Other than that, he’s taken some funky routes and looks like a guy who has spent his entire career in the infield. The Red Sox and Yankees played 19 innings the other night, and Ramirez played a part in extending that contest with this play. If all goes well, he makes that play a couple months from now. Even his highlights are questionable. If that didn’t bring back memories of Jonny Gomes, you and I are cut from a different cloth. These kind of adjustments were to be expected, so it’s not anything to worry about right now. If he’s still looking like this in August and September, we can be a little more worried.
All in all, Hanley Ramirez has been the most entertaining player on the Red Sox to this point. And I didn’t even get to mention his ridiculously ill-fitting helmet! He’s been as advertised with the bat, hitting everything hard and punishing pitchers who’ve dared to make a mistake. In the field, he hasn’t been great. Since it’s to be expected of someone learning a new position on the fly, it’s been more fun to watch than discouraging, at least for now. There’s a lot of reasons to be excited about the coming months, but based on what we’ve seen thus far, Hanley may be at the top of the list.