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MLB trends: Guardians’ José Ramírez flirting with 162 RBI; Twins’ Luis Arraez is league’s best contact hitter

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The 2022 MLB regular season has now been underway for more than two months, with contenders separating from contenders. A few teams that started off brilliantly return to Earth (like the Angels), while others that started off slowly move up the standings (like the Braves). However, there is still a lot – a LOT – of a season to play.

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With that in mind, our weekly series analyzing various league trends continues on Wednesday as we take a look at two extreme hitters with historic paces and league strikeout percentages. Last week, we covered Sandy Alcantara’s dominant run, Ian Happ’s improved contact ability, and the Yankees’ stoppage..

Unbeatable Ramirez

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Joseph Ramirez

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Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez has been one of baseball’s top all-rounders for the better part of a decade, and arguably his best season will be in 2022. Ramirez is only 29 years old and has a .303/0.393/. .636 batting line, and he had 62 points in 63 Cleveland games. He stands a chance of becoming only the sixth player in the last 75 years (and only the third player in the last 72 years) to finish the season with more RBI than in team games. Last five to do it:

  • Manny Ramirez, 1999 Cleveland: 165 RBIs in 162 team games
  • Jeff Bagwell, 1994 Astros: 116 RBIs in 115 team games (season shortened due to strike)
  • Verne Stevens, 1949 Red Sox: 159 RBIs in 155 team games
  • Ted Williams, 1949 Red Sox: 159 RBIs in 155 team games
  • Joe DiMaggio, 1948 Yankees: 155 RBIs in 154 team games

“They are so different” Guardians manager Terry Francona Medina Gazette when asked to compare Jose Ramirez to Manny Ramirez, one of his former players. “I used to laugh because Manny is in the batter’s box, boy, watch out. But when he’s out of the batter’s box, watch out. Josie is the best player on the field all around. It affects the game everywhere. as far as Josie is concerned in these comparisons, that’s a pretty big compliment, probably both guys.”

Ramirez combines a power hitter with a contact hitter with, well, contact ability. He only hits 7.5% of his games at the plate, the second-lowest rate in baseball among skilled hitters (teammate Steven Kwan has a 7.0% rate) and his 4.8% swing rate is the fifth largest in baseball. Few players rarely swing and miss, and even fewer do so with such a big hit. This is a rare combination of skills.

My favorite fun fact of the season: Ramirez has more home runs (12) than swings and misses (8) on fastballs in the strike zone. Raphael Devers, another powerhouse hitter with an above-average strike rate (17.1 percent), has 11 fastball homers in the zone but has swung and missed 65 times. Ramirez’s combination of contact and strength is truly unique.

The Guardians have won 16 of their last 20 games, including a 6-5 11th-inning win over the home team of the Twins on Tuesday, leading to a virtual tie with Minnesota at the AL Central. (These two teams will play five games at Progressive Field next week.) The Clevelands are in a very big division, and if that doesn’t work, they could be in a wild game. Ramirez is more than an MVP candidate. He is a unicorn, a rare player who delivers modern strength with an early old school contact speed.

Arraes in pursuit of a little-known story

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Luis Arraes

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Like Ramirez, Twins infielder Luis Arraez is one of the best hitters in baseball today. His strike rates (8.3 percent) and sweeping shots (3.3 percent) are the same as Ramirez, though Arraes doesn’t hit nearly as hard. Ramirez has 16 home runs. In total, Arraes has 12 off-base hits (eight doubles and four homers).

Of course, there is nothing wrong with a lack of power. Arraes owns a .362/.442/.457 batting line and leads baseball in batting average and slugging percentage. He and Ramirez are two of seven qualified hitters who have more walkers than strikeouts this season:

  • Juan Soto, citizens: 55 BB and 46 K
  • Jose Ramirez, Guardians: 34 BB and 20 K
  • Alejandro Kirk, Blue Jays: 26 BB and 21 K
  • Yandy Diaz, Race: 37 BB and 27 K
  • Alex Bregman, Astros: 39 BB and 36 K
  • Michael Brantley, Astros: 29 BB and 27 K
  • Luis Arraes, Gemini: 28 BB and 20 K

Arráez’s high-contact, low-power approach gives him a chance to finish the year with a higher on-base percentage than a slugging percentage. In fact, before he went 2-for-5 with a double and a homer on Tuesday, Arraes had .443 OBP and .439 SLG. Nearly three months into the season, and he still had a higher on-base percentage than his field goal percentage.

The OBP > SLG season is hardly unprecedented, although it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, and rarely happens when a player hits over .400. Only five times since the hill was lowered in 1969, a hitter with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title has had an OBP>SLG season hitting at least .400. List:

Base percentage Percentage of traffic jams

Nick Johnson, 2009 Nationals and Marlins

0.426

.405

Mike Hargrove, 1981, Cleveland.

0.424

.401

Mike Hargrove, 1980 Cleveland

.415

.404

Willie Randolph, 1980 Yankees

0.427

.407

Gene Tenas, 1977 Parents

.415

.410

No player has had an OBP > SLG season with at least .420 slugging percentage since Alby Pearson hit .288/.420/.400 with the Angels in 1961. 1955 when Richie Ashburn hit .338/.449/.448 for the Phillies. There is still a lot of season ahead, but Arraes is within reach.

Ultimately, the OBP > SLG season is more of a neat statistical quirk than a historical one. This is evidence of a unique skill set and nothing more. Most importantly for the Twins, Arráez ignites one of the highest scoring offenses in the game thanks to his extreme contact and on-base profile. Gemini already has enough power thanks to Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa, among others. Arraez has to set the table for these guys and he’s done an impressive job to date.

MLB strikeout rate has stabilized

Major League Baseball is on track to do something this season that hasn’t been done since 2005: The league’s strikeout percentage will drop from season to season. MLB’s strikeout rate rose from 16.9% in 2004 to 16.4% in 2005, and has increased in every 162-game season since (we’re going to ignore the short and unusual pandemic season in 2020).

Major League Baseball hitters hit 23.2% of games last season. This year it has dropped by a whole percentage point to 22.2 percent. This decline is almost entirely due to the universal DH. Pitchers are terrible hitters and have hit 44.2 percent of matches at home in 2021. The rest of the league’s players – the real hitters – hit 22.6 percent of the time.

Here are league-wide strikeout and swing strike numbers for non-pitchers over the last 10 full seasons (excluding 2020):

Strikeout rate Fluctuating strike frequency

2012

19.2%

9.1%

2013

19.3%

9.3%

2014

19.9%

9.4%

2015

19.9%

9.7%

2016

20.6%

10.0%

2017

21.2%

10.3%…



Source: www.cbssports.com

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