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Hanley Ramirez has struggled when it’s mattered the most

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It makes his rough season even more noticeable.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

When the 2017 Red Sox are struggling, it’s almost always because of the offense. It’s true that the pitching has been on the disappointing side of late, but even amidst that Boston’s lineup has been struggling. As has been the case for a large chunk of the season, it’s hard to place blame on just one hitter. If we were to find a face of the struggles, it would probably be Mookie Betts, who just can’t seem to get back on track. Along with him, the Red Sox haven’t gotten much from Hanley Ramirez. He’s been struggling all season, and his overall line is certainly not good, but the struggles have been magnified by when they’ve happened.

Just last week, I looked into the overall and recent issues with Ramirez’ offensive game. There are some holes in his swing right now, and while his batted ball data suggests he should be better than his numbers suggest his approach is also a major contributor. He’s not laying off pitches that are hard to hit, and it’s leading to less-than-impressive numbers. It’s not just the basic struggles, though. Ramirez is struggling the most when the at bats matter the most, and it’s only serving to magnify how disappointing 2017 has been for the Red Sox slugger.

On the season, Ramirez is hitting just .242/.326/.434 for a below-average 96 wRC+. For someone who has spent the majority of the season as a designated hitter, it is even worse than it originally seems. If you’re looking for the positive in his season, Ramirez has been quite good with the bases empty. When he comes up with nobody on, he is hitting .279/.349/.515 for a 125 wRC+. He also has 15 of his 25 home runs (60 percent) in 46 percent of the plate appearances.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

When runners reach base, things get much, much worse. When there is anyone on any base Ramirez’ line plummets to .201/.301/.344 for a wRC+ of just 63. It gets even worse when runners are in scoring position, a situation in which the Red Sox designated hitter is hitting just .187/.306/.301 for a 50 wRC+. Baseball-Reference has a stat, tOPS+, that compares a player’s offensive production in a specific split to his overall production. A higher number indicates that he’s been better in the split than he’s been on the year as a whole. With runners on base, Ramirez has a tOPS+ of 71, meaning he’s been 29 percent worse when runners are on than he is with the bases empty. Only three players with at least 400 plate appearances this year — Yasiel Puig, Maikel Franco and Kevin Pillar — have been worse. His tOPS+ of 61 with runners in scoring position is obviously worse, but it’s a little better in the context of the league. It’s only seventh-worst in all of baseball!

I don’t really have a ton to say about these numbers, to be honest. There’s not much noticeable difference in his game when runners reach base. His plate discipline doesn’t get noticeably worse — his strikeout rate goes up some, but so does his walk rate. His batted ball data does reflect an increase in ground balls, which would certainly lead to less power. The numbers are much worse than the relatively slight increase in ground balls would indicate, though.

Really, I have a hard time believing this kind of bad streak is sustainable, but that’s not really the point. Ramirez was supposed to be the big bat in the middle of the lineup, and the biggest job for that role is knocking in runners that reach base ahead of you. He has had chances to succeed there and hasn’t come through. He has time to reverse that trend, and the odds say he should be able to, but time is running out. Ramirez has been one of the most frustrating hitters on the Red Sox, and his struggles with runners on baseball have only served to exacerbate the frustration. He has one month remaining to prove that these trends are a fluke.