Wilson Ramos’ Power Seems to Be Returning

Perhaps, more accurately, Wilson Ramos’ brand of power is returning.

The Washington Nationals’ backstop has slashed .333/.347/.563, with three home runs and two doubles for a .229 ISO, in 49 plate appearances this month. Prior to August, he’d hit three home runs and eight doubles for a .094 ISO in 196 PAs.

Ramos was apparently wondering about his theretofore shortcomings by the end of July. Fantasy baseball players, like Nats manager Matt Williams, probably did less of that, considering that they could’ve had some expectation of loss following the catcher’s hamate bone surgery that forced him to miss five weeks at the start of this season.

This recent surge is definitely encouraging. We couldn’t look to his batted-ball rates for much to back it up, unfortunately. Ramos hit 25.3% line drives and 21.4% fly balls through July; so far this month, 29.7% and 18.9%, respectively. He’s hit only 20.9% fly balls this season, and that’s about on par with his previous two campaigns, in which he hit 20.0% (2012) and 23.6% (2013) fly balls. Nothing like that first full season, in 2011 (35.6%).

An uninspiring rate of fly balls, then, is nothing new for Ramos. What made the young backstop’s power breakout in 2013 believable was the jump in fly-ball and home run distance, as Podhorzer discussed last year. It’s not surprising to see that his small sample of flies and homers in 2014 went about 295 feet prior to Aug. 1 and about 315 feet this month, either. That jump in distance is takes him back to the kind of power he displayed last season.

Mike was convincing in his argument that, essentially, Ramos’ 23.1% HR/FB in 2012 may have been no fluke, or more so that his 27.6% HR/FB last year wasn’t one. And Mike’s prediction about Ramos’ average fly-ball and dinger distance has been correct: There has been a dip. It’d be interesting to see what the numbers – his HR/FB as well as his average fly-ball and HR distance – would look like had the catcher not been injured on opening day, though, wouldn’t it?

There’s been a pretty distinct pattern in Ramos’ batted-ball distributions, interestingly enough, in Ramos’ first few years in the league.

Key: GB– FB– LD–

Ramos BB by year

As Mike had also hoped, Ramos’ line-drive rate has ticked upward, and his BABIP has benefited. Basically, he appears to have settled in as a line-drive hitter, by getting rid of some of those ground balls, with the potential for serious power, assuming good health, as the distance marks suggest. His HITf/x marks would probably be pretty fun to examine.

Ramos owners can’t assume that his power has returned to full capacity for the rest of this season. The small-sample-size thing applies, obviously, and the type of injury he sustained still whispers caution to temper enthusiasm. But it’s heartening to see that he’s on the road to recovery of power.

Presumably, Ramos will gradually transition, with some of those liners turning into fly balls, in the next several years. There’d be some tradeoffs, but it wouldn’t be hard to envision a 25-homer season for him. Ah, that is, except for the primary caveat that comes with any player prediction, especially for one who has already accumulated this kind of history. It’d be nice if he’d spend one or two of these next few seasons healthy enough, and without a pre-existing condition, to accrue 450-plus authentic plate appearances.

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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

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One small suggestion for the future – on the GB/FB/LD chart, it isn’t immediately obvious which line is which. I could tell from the text (and from previous knowledge of typical spreads for GB%, FB%, and LD%) that green = GB%, blue = FB%, and red = LD%, but someone who isn’t already familiar with batted ball data might not know which line is which. A proper legend indicating the color/category mapping would be helpful.

Other than that, great article.