On Saturday, the bases sat loaded as Hanley Ramirez stepped into the batter’s box with two outs, and the Cleveland Indians clinging to a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Some feared a strikeout, others were hopeful for a home run, while all would settle on the RBI walk obtained as Thomas Pannone threw four-of-six pitches outside the strike zone. The Ramirez saunter from home to first would be a familiar sight as he would do so two more times that afternoon. In the grand tradition of Mike Napoli, Ramirez has returned Three True Outcome baseball to the Northcoast.
Even batted balls hit extremely hard come with no guarantees. Ask Roberto Perez who has hit the ball over 100 miles per hour four times, yet only has one total hit on the entire season. Defensive players can make outstanding plays, hops can bounce in odd ways, and game situations can allow for a fielder to choose an easier out elsewhere. Conversely, ground balls hit right at a defender can die on the grass or find a hole vacated by a defender shifted– as Jake Bauers demonstrated with a soft grounder hit directly at where a non-shifted shortstop would normally reside on Saturday.
The only guarantees come when the defense is removed from the equation. Home runs clear the area where gloves come in contact, strikeouts ensure a quick trot back to the dugout bench, and walks (including hit-by-pitch) allow the batter to be rewarded first base without the need to even make bat-to-ball contact. As such, these outcomes are often referred to as the Three True Outcomes of baseball; the purity of the result coming from the rules of play.
Hanley Ramirez through 7 April 2019
The overall batting slash lines for Ramirez has been a robust .238/.385/.524 (157 wRC+) with which he has shown an ability to get on base and provide power for a lineup desperate for such production. A full 65% of these 26 plate appearances have ended in either strikeout, walk, or home run. On batted-ball outcomes, Ramirez has balanced five outs with five hits and one reached on error.
The home runs have been achieved on the two hardest hit baseballs of the Indians season. Baseball Savant using Statcast has them listed as both exceeding 113 miles per hour in exit velocity. Such speed makes these also the hardest hit home runs for the Tribe since the Terry Francona took over managing the ball club.
The season is early and the sample sizes are small. Ramirez is unlikely to continue his torrid pace at the plate, nor continue achieving a true outcome on more than half of his plate appearances as regression towards his norm of 35% is more likely. However, given his ability to turn on a baseball quickly, the approach is warranted and appreciated. The 35 year old has already transformed himself from a MVP-candidate shortstop in his early career to a power-hitting designated-hitter in his later years. If he can continue leaning on the Three True Outcomes of baseball in this next phase, then the Indians might have the middle of the order hitter they need.