Ramirez Baffles Hitters - And Statheads

Horacio Ramirez has a solid pitcher for Atlanta since making the team out of Spring Training last season. However, as Andrew Bare points out -his statistics aren't exceptional. What does this mean for his future with the Braves?

One of the great interests in my life is the French Revolution. I'm a French Revolution nut, a buff. Any book on the French Revolution that I can get my interested little hands on, I read. And any self-respecting French Revolution nut has read or is reading Thomas Carlyle's classic, "The French Revolution: A History."

Carlyle's fun to read for any number of reasons, but what makes him of interest to the modern baseball fan is his attitude towards pre-Revolutionary France. Carlyle's a conservative, monarchist observer, basically hostile towards the Revolution. But he doesn't really blame the average sans-culotte; Carlyle focuses much of his hostility at the Philosophes of the early 18th century. He directs a lot of his scorn towards "victorious Analysis", the attitudes and people who, in his view, severed the people from their vital links to faith in a Church or loyalty to a King.

Basically, Carlyle is skeptical of Skepticism. "There are more things in heaven and Earth Horatio than are dreamed of in your philosophy," to mix in a famous quote from another famous English writer.

It is an idea that those of us who are camp-followers of the 21st century, sporting version of "Philosphedom", Sabrmetrics, need to keep in mind. We who revel in the triumph of Victorious Analysis, of the sheer obvious wisdom of our formulas should remember that there are men, who, like Mirabeau, "make away with all formulas."

Is such a man Horacio Ramirez?

It's too early to answer that question, but early returns certainly indicate that Ramirez might be such a player.

Over the 196 innings of his still young major league career, Ramirez has a 3.83 ERA. That's basically what Russ Ortiz did last season. Ramirez' numbers this season are even more impressive; a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings of work. What make those figures truly remarkable are the peripheral statistics that have accompanied them. In those 20 innings, the young lefty has struck out seven hitters. Seven. In 2000, Don Wengert struck out seven hitters.

In 10 innings.

It is…well, I would think it would be well-nigh impossible to flourish in the major leagues with a 3.15 K/9 rate. And surviving with a low strikeout rate is hardly new business for Ramirez, who entered Wednesday's game against the Reds with a career 4.86 K/9 number.

And it's not like he's been able to negate those weak strikeout numbers with excellent figures for the other peripherals. He's walked 5.4 batters per nine innings in 2004; for his career that number is at around 3.8 per nine innings, not awful, but certainly not low enough to save his performance. His homerun numbers are similarly unspectacular, though Ramirez has been quite stingy with the homerun ball so far in 2004.

And through all of those truly awful statistics, Ramirez continues to flourish in the big leagues. This is a head-scratcher for those of us who are believers in some form of DIPS theory. This is one of our new "formulas", one of the elements of our modern Philosophedom. Victorious Analysis has derived this with great thought and effort; men of extreme intelligence have struggled with their formula, and the fruit of their labor is impressive indeed.

DIPS allows us to view pitchers and defense in ways we never have before. The Philosophes did well to devise it.

And yet here we have our Horacio Ramirez, striving to "make away with all formulas." For Braves' fans, it is hard not to compare Ramirez to another lefty who did this same thing in Atlanta for so many years.

Ramirez has markedly better stuff than Glavine, possessing a legitimately solid low-90s fastball that has good movement, accenting the pitch with moderately advanced breaking stuff and off-speed pitches. He has the rarest of talents in young pitchers, that of being able and willing to work inside to all kinds of hitters.

It is that knowledge of the strike zone and his ability to…well, pitch, that gives some hope that Ramirez can be more than his peripheral numbers indicate.

It is but a fan's hope, however. Victorious Analysis does not suffer disagreement for long; it will dispatch the forces of Voros and rage against he who would dare to strive against Philosophedom.

For myself, I cannot continue to expect such a level of success from Horacio Ramirez. The Braves have already had a not dissimilar pitcher in Damian Moss and traded him away. What makes this story intriguing is that Moss was traded for Russ Ortiz, who is no DIPS-maniac himself. Ortiz walks too many hitters and he doesn't strike many out; if this Skepticism towards Skepticism be contagious, let's hope that Ramirez doesn't find the cure.

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