Hanley Ramirez’s first year in left field has been an adventure. But is it fair to say, after more than half a season of stumbling around the shadows of the Green Monster, Ramirez has improved?
No one is going to mistake Ramirez for a Gold Glove outfielder anytime soon. According to FanGraphs, he’s been the worst defensive outfielder in Major League Baseball. The 31-year-old converted infielder has noticed personal progress, though. And there actually have been a few encouraging signs of late.
“Twenty seven years I’ve been playing baseball. This is the first time in the outfield,” Ramirez told The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham on Sunday. “It was going to take a little time, but I feel like I’m getting comfortable.”
Ramirez’s advancement has been more evident on the road, where he’s not forced to deal with the claustrophobic nature of left field at Fenway Park. It’s surprising — typically, left field is easier at Fenway because it’s small — but Ramirez definitely looks more comfortable flagging down fly balls without the Green Monster behind him. There’s a certain freedom he doesn’t seem to have in his home ballpark.
“It’s tough in our ballpark because there’s not a lot of room out there,” outfield coach Arnie Beyeler told Abraham. “On the road, he can just run a little bit and not worry about running into something. There are no limitations.”
Ramirez, of course, slammed into the wall located in foul territory along the left field line at Fenway Park earlier this season, resulting in a shoulder injury that forced him to miss three games. The collision appeared to impact his swing throughout May and perhaps even contributed to some hesitation in the field, but his power stroke has since returned and his defensive comfort apparently is growing.
“It’s different at home, but I’m figuring it out. I trust my instincts and they’re getting better,” Ramirez said. “It took some time, but now it’s better.”
Ramirez’s team-leading 19 home runs are far less impressive when they’re accompanied by below-average defense, as the latter has the ability to counteract the three-time All-Star’s obvious offensive potential. Fortunately for the Red Sox, a better-rounded Ramirez could soon emerge.
Or, at the very least, the worst might be behind Ramirez from a defensive standpoint.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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