Ramirez Is Trying A Rodney
Back in 2012, Editor Emeritus R.J. Anderson noted that Fernando Rodney had moved from the third base side of the rubber over to the first base side of the rubber as he had his surprise resurgent season when many scoffed at the acquisition of the wild reliever. It was just one of a few changes Rodney made in his time with the Rays, but it was the first one that was noticed as he began his run of success. Now, it appears that Erasmo Ramirez is trying on the shift for size.
The shift to the first base side of the rubber has flown under the radar as Erasmo has struggled in recent weeks after his terrific start to the season. In fact, the observation of the shift only came about when a few of us went to look at the numbers to see if Erasmo was showing signs of fatigue such as a drop in his arm slot as he had early last year.
The shift on the rubber began about 150 pitches ago and the trend line in the image below shows how it has unfolded of late. The second image from games in April and June show the shift on the mound from screen captures.
The assumption would be that by moving Ramirez left would be detrimental to his changeup as the fading action to the pitch would leave it more in the zone than darting down and out of it. The same would stand for the tailing action on his two-seam fastball. The heatmaps do not back up that hypothesis.
If anything, Ramirez is locating his pitches against lefties further out on the zone if not more out of it. The issue is more apparent against righties as a majority of his pitches to them are now on the outer half of the plate between the knees and the belt.
His changeup has not been the issue during this adjustment on the pitching rubber. The data shows 49 changeups thrown and 3 hit safely into play – all singles to the outfield. The issue is his fastball.
For one, his fastball is lacking the movement it showed earlier in the season. Whereas Erasmo’s fastball was getting movement earlier in the season, it’s looking rather straight of late.
Secondly, he throws the pitch in the 91-94 range and does not have the velocity that allows him to make mistakes within the zone. It was different when Rodney would miss location in the zone with a 98mph heater, but when Erasmo misses with the fastball, this happens.
That kind of outcome sums up the fastball for Ramirez of late as it has been a rather all or nothing pitch for him. When batters put his fastball into play over the past month, they’re doing so at a .426 clip. The weird part of it is, the fastballs that are turned into hits are either singles to the outfield or homers like the one Lindor hit. Earlier in the season, he allowed nine extra base hits off his fastball (6 doubles, 3 homers) while allowing just 7 singles. Lately, it’s a volume issue for Ramirez as along with the 4 home runs, he’s allowed 16 singles.
As Hanselman suggested yesterday, it would be a good idea to downshift Erasmo into lower leverage while he works on things because the stuff just is not the same right now. It could be due to fatigue as he’s not called E’ry Day Erasmo for nothing, and most of his appearances involve heavy lifting and multiple innings. Perhaps the physical efforts to prepare for such a role detrimental to his pitches right now as there isn’t a noticeable rise in vertical release point that would normally lead to a lack of movement on a pitch.
When Ramirez first came to the Rays, his fastball had too much movement and he could not control it. Nowadays, it has too little movement and he cannot control it and that is a very dangerous recipe for a reliever that makes his living these days in high-leverage moments.