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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Rangers hoping for 2008 Ramirez

By Richard Durrett

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is always looking for some additional pieces to help his club. And he's not afraid to take a calculated risk. The Rangers acquired right-handed reliever Edwar Ramirez from the Yankees for cash considerations. In my opinion, it seems like a low-risk, high-upside deal. The Rangers can see how he looks the rest of spring and determine if he can help the bullpen.

Ramirez did not have a strong 2009, with a 5.73 ERA in 22 innings pitched. Opponents hit .281 against him. Because of his plus changeup, Ramirez was used against lefties even more than righties by the Yankees. But lefties hit .302 against him last season.

What the Rangers hope is that a new environment and opportunity can rekindle the 2008 Ramirez. That pitcher had a 3.90 ERA and a 5-1 record in 55 1/3 innings. He was a reliable part of the Yankees bullpen and had 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

ESPN.com's Rob Neyer wrote about Ramirez a few weeks ago. First, he noted what River Avenue Blues said about Ramirez when he was designated for assignment:

Chan-Ho Park finally made it to Tampa today, and to clear a roster spot on the 40-man, the Yankees have designated Edwar Ramirez for assignment. Ramirez, entering his age 29 season, has been with the Yanks since mid-2006. Over parts of three seasons with the big league club, he has appeared in 96 games and has thrown 98.1 innings. He has a career ERA of 5.22 and an impressive K/9 IP of 10.6, but he’s also walked 5.1 guys per 9 and has a tendency to give up the long ball.

His “Bugs Bunny” change-up can be devastating, but he’s struggled to find consistency in his stints in the Majors. I’d imagine some other team will pick him up quickly.

Neyer said that's a good way to describe Ramirez's career with the Yankees. But he adds some thoughts of his own:

When the Yankees found Ramirez, he was pitching for the Edinburg (Texas) Coyotes in the independent United League. Having already washed out of the Angels' system, Ramirez had somewhere picked up one of the best changeups anybody had ever seen. In the minors, anyway. The very next year, Ramirez was pitching in Yankee Stadium.

Obviously, Ramirez has walked far too many hitters in the majors, perhaps because he's afraid to throw strikes, which might be smart because he's also given up far too many home runs in the majors. There's a tendency to write Ramirez off, which the Yankees seem to have done. He throws his fastball just 88 miles an hour and his slider is essentially a throwaway pitch. But he's still got all those strikeouts, and whether they're meaningful or not, I suspect there are a few pitching coaches out there who would like to find out for themselves.

That, apparently, includes Mike Maddux. It will be interesting to see which Ramirez they get.

FanGraphs also shared some thoughts on Ramirez. Among those:

It’s hard to imagine Ramirez making it through waivers. Sure, there are probably still some teams that look at a reliever with a 5.19 ERA and a sub-90 mph heater and blow him off, but this isn’t 1999. Many, probably most teams look deeper. Ramirez’s strikeout rate in the major leagues from 2007-2009 is 10.62 per nine innings. That is higher than Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Joe Nathan, and Jose Valverde, among others.

Of course, during the same period, Ramirez also walked 5.13 batters per nine innings, leaving him with a decidely below-average 2.07 K/BB ratio. To make matters worse, 2009 was by far Ramirez’s worst major league performance in both areas, with his K/9 dropping from 13.29 in 2007 to 10.25 in 2008 to 9.00 in 2009, at the same time his walk rate ballooned to its highest yet, at 7.36 in 2009.