Horacio Ramirez, a retrospective
It’s official, though I wouldn’t believe it until his turn comes up and someone else takes the mound: loyalty has its limits in the case of Horacio Ramirez versus the major leagues.
Sure, you’re thinking, it’s long overdue. We were whining about the pickup from the start, and then pretty much kept at it all season long until we got tired of it and then everyone started complaining we were focusing too much on the royal screwing they were giving Adam Jones.
Ramirez’s season line is startlingly bad. He’s started 20 games and given the team 98 innings. Not even five innings a start. Wretched strikeout rate, without a decent walk rate or avoiding enough home runs to even contain the damage. How does a pitcher that ineffective, who can’t get that deep into games continue to be given the ball? Loyalty, right. To him, not the fans. Or the other players.
8-7 in 20 games. 98 IP, 139 H, 13 HR, 42 BB, 40 K. 7.16 ERA. In fairness, he’s been a little unlucky – his FIP’s 5.46, for instance. But then, as we’ve said, FIP’s not good at measuring pitchers who aren’t throwing major-league quality stuff.
When should it have been apparent that Horacio Ramirez was not any good? Let me use game scores to produce a handy graph. Here’s game scores in a nutshell: 50 points for taking the mound. +1/out recorded. +2/IP after the 4th. +1 per strikeout. -2 per hit. -4 per ER, -2 per R, -1 per walk.
Taking a random about-normal start, then (6 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 4 K, 2 BB, 1 HR) gets 50+18+4+4-12-20-2 = 42. Took a big hit there on the 5 ER. Anyway, you get the picture. The highest game score ever was 105. It’s hard to get to 40, and if your starter’s regularly that ineffective, you should be looking for better options.
M’s starters, average game score*:
Jarrod Washburn, 48
Miguel Batista, 46
… Horacio Ramirez, 36.5
Game score has its flaws obviously, but as a general benchmark for pitcher effectiveness, it’s not terrible, and it’s on Baseball Reference, which makes it easy for me to do stuff like this:
Horacio Ramirez Game Scores, 2007
Yeah. Lotta time in the suck zone. Some starts in the “decent zone”. The only good start against a good offense would be May 13th, against the Yankees, when he went 6 1/3rd, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, and 1 K…. he pitched to contact and got lucky. If you want strikeouts, you’re in trouble. Maybe the Royals start, where he got 4 Ks and walked two, giving up seven hits in 6 1/3rd? I don’t know. What I’m saying is there’s really no start where you could say “Horacio Ramirez really threw a good game there.” Even Jeff Weaver’s had some starts that are indisputably good. Not lately, no (last time Weaver had a decent start, August 23rd).
But forget the depressing results. Take the skill route. In his first start, a win, Ramirez went six innings (and it took him 106 pitches to get there), struck out one batter (Teixeira in the first, on a called third strike that… well, anyway). When was there ever evidence that Ramirez was getting better, in any sense? That he was getting more efficient with his pitches, even, much less fooling more batters into swing-and-misses. That any of his pitches might be developing into reliable out pitches?
How long do you wait for someone who isn’t pitching well enough to be in the rotation to even show some promise?
Twenty starts, it seems. I know the M’s didn’t have anyone who’d have been a clear upgrade, especially when Baek got injured, and yet that seems as much an indictment of the team as anything, that they went into the season without any kind of reliable break-glass-in-case-of-flameout even though they went into the year with three pitchers all with significant risks.
Or we could rant about the team’s failure to pick up rotation help even when it was all but free (or actually free)… but we won’t.
But for all the things that have gone wrong (and right) this year, it’s clear that the team’s inexplicable faith that Ramirez would be a solid rotation member, their continued belief that he would at any moment become the pitcher they thought they were acquiring, and their failure to have a decent backup plan to go to was one of the greatest reasons the team couldn’t turn a surprisingly successful season into a playoff berth.
* I used b-ref’s summary function pretty quickly, so it’s entirely possible that’s screwed up