Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly wasn’t overly concerned as one his top hitters went through the first slump of his MLB career.
Rookie outfielder Harold Ramirez had gone without a hit for three consecutive games and was 0 for his last 16 overall by the time Mattingly gave him a day out of the starting lineup on Saturday with the hopes that it would provide Ramirez with a needed reset.
“You know you’re coming out of it,” Mattingly said. “It’s just a matter of time. ... You never quite believing that you can hit.”
And on Saturday night, when Ramirez came off the bench to pinch-hit in the eighth inning of an eventual 1-0 loss to the Braves, he starting hitting again. Ramirez took a 2-1 pitch from reliever Sean Newcomb and pulled it to left field for a double.
He’s back on track now, getting another hit in the series finale against the Braves on Sunday before recording his fourth career three-hit game on Monday in the Marlins’ 4-1 series-opening loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Through his first 25 career MLB games, Ramirez is hitting a team-best .330 with 32 hits, seven doubles, a home run, 12 RBI and 14 runs scored. He has hits in 19 of those 25 games, including nine multi-hit performances. He tied the franchise record by recording a 10-game hitting streak within the first 20 games of his MLB career. Christian Yelich set the record in 2013.
“Harold has that hit in him,” Mattingly said. “He’s going to hit.”
Outfielder Curtis Granderson added: “He’s played a bunch of different positions in the outfield. He’s been in a ton of different spots in the lineup. He’s just getting himself ready to hit. Baseball is one of those things that as long as you try not to do too much, you can really be rewarded for it. That’s a lot easier said than done, but he’s doing it.”
So what’s working for Ramirez, the 24-year-old rookie outfielder who never played above Double A during his first seven years in the Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays before the Marlins signed him this offseason?
Well, there are a few factors to consider.
Ramirez ranks among the top-10 percent in the league in sprint speed, which is defined as how fast a player runs in his fastest one-second window on a given competitive play. Ramirez’s rate of 28.9 feet per second leads the Marlins and is 19th in MLB among players with at least 50 opportunities.
It’s a big reason why is actual batting average (.330) is 49 points higher than his expected batting average (.281) through his first 97 career at-bats. Ramirez has the speed to leg out infield singles on tough groundball plays. And considering he hits ground balls more than two-thirds of the time — 68.8 percent, according to Statcast — and he is one of two MLB regulars with a negative average launch angle (-0.4 degrees), his speed plays a factor in his ability to get on base.
His consistent approach
Ramirez has a steady eye at the plate. Through his first 25 career games, he has swung at 71.8 percent of pitches inside the strike zone — nearly six percentage points higher than the MLB average. What’s more? He has made contact of 92 percent of those swings. The MLB average for contact on pitches inside the zone, for comparison, is 83 percent.
He has lived on the fastball, batting .367 against the pitch. Opposing pitchers have thrown it to him 63.3 percent of the time.
His hard hits
According to Statcast, Ramirez has a 40.3 percent hard-hit rate, defined as a batted ball in play with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. He is one of four regular Marlins starters with a hard-hit rate of at least 40 percent. The others: Brian Anderson (51.1 percent), Jorge Alfaro (47.8 percent) and Garrett Cooper (43.6 percent).