Friday, August 24, 2012
Hanley Ramirez makes Dodgers .5 better
By Dan Braunstein
Since acquiring Hanley Ramirez in the final week of July, the Dodgers have averaged half a run more per game than they did before the trade, despite scoring just six runs in three games against the Giants. Ramirez has been a key factor in the Dodgers’ improved offense, as his 29 RBI with the Dodgers lead all of baseball since his Dodger debut on July 25.
Given his RBI total, it’s no surprise that Ramirez has been at his best with men on base and even better with at least one runner in scoring position. He already has 14 hits with runners in scoring position in 27 games with the Dodgers; he had just 19 such hits in 93 games this season as a Marlin. One difference seems to be that he’s not swinging at as many bad pitches in those situations. The percentage of pitches he’s chased out of the strike zone with men in scoring position has dropped from about 30 percent to about 25 percent.
One area at the plate where Ramirez has shown improvement is how he’s handled pitches on the inner third of the plate or further inside. In 2009 and 2010, Ramirez was among the best in baseball at getting hits on inside pitches, as he hit .346 in at-bats ending with a pitch on the inner third. In 2011 and 2012 with the Marlins, Ramirez’s average against those pitches dropped to .208. Since being traded to LA, however, his average on inside pitches is up to .353, right around where it was during his most productive years as a Marlin.
Of Ramirez’s 29 RBI as Dodger, 10 have scored Matt Kemp, a number that’s even more impressive considering that Andre Ethier has driven in Kemp only 12 times this season. Ramirez and the red-hot Luis Cruz have turned the Dodgers’ left side of the infield from a weakness offensively into a strength, as the pair has combined to hit .319 with 43 RBI since the Ramirez trade. The offensive boost they’ve provided, most importantly from Ramirez, will clearly be critical as the Dodgers look to overcome what is now a three-game deficit in the NL West.
With help from Baseball-Reference, ESPN Stats & Information, and the Elias Sports Bureau, here are a few other notes from the past week in Dodgers baseball.
POWER IN ATLANTA
The Dodgers needed only four hits to put up six runs in Saturday’s win in Atlanta, as all four hits went for home runs. It was the first time this season the Dodgers had hit four home runs in a game and only the second time they’d done it in the last two seasons. Only once before Saturday since the team moved to LA had the Dodgers had at least four hits with every hit being a home run. They also did it in a loss to the Angels on June 14, 2002.
In Saturday’s game, Hanley Ramirez, James Loney, and Luis Cruz hit consecutive home runs in the third inning. Forget about hitting three in a row, the Dodgers had hit just back-to-back home runs only once all season, when Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier did it on April 14 against the Padres. The last time the Dodgers hit three straight home runs was on June 12, 2007, against the Mets. The third of the home runs that day was Hong-Chih Kuo’s only career home run.
KERSHAW AND BUMGARNER DUEL
Monday night, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw each pitched eight innings, striking out 10 and walking none. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only twice before had opposing starters each struck out at least 10 and walked none. In 1997, Roger Clemens and Aaron Sele did it, and in 2003, it was Javier Vazquez and Mark Prior.
Chad Billingsley pitched seven scoreless innings Sunday afternoon to improve to 6-0 in his last six starts, all since his return from the disabled list after the All-Star break. No Dodger had won six straight starts since Kevin Brown won seven in a row in 2003, and it’s the first time in his career that Billingsley has won six straight starts. He’s also gone eight straight starts without walking more than two hitters; his previous career high was five straight.