Time after time throughout the season’s first 36 games we have seen Hanley Ramirez make spectacular barehanded plays at third base. Having been charged only one error and seemingly able to turn an effective double play ball, it seems that it is accurate to claim that Ramirez has made a successful transition to Third Base.
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen would agree with these claims. He is “pleasantly surprised” on the ease of Hanley’s transition and affirms that his defense is “100 percent better than what I thought.”
An improved Hanley in the field can also be characterized by his improved ultimate zone rating which measures defense by comparing game events to data on similarly hit balls in the past to determine how one compares to the average player. Throughout the past two years at short stop, Hanley has averaged a UZR per 150 games of -11.3 meaning that he gives up 11.3 runs greater than the average player at his position. This season after transitioning to third Ramirez has a UZR projected per 150 games of -9.1, thus implying that actual improvement occurred. This shows that Hanley’s skill set is somewhat closer to that of average third Basemen than the average shortstop.
For Hanley truly to make an effective transition to third base, his offensive numbers must rise to his previous All-Star Levels. Prior to the season it was viewed by scouts that a move to third base would decrease overall stress on the body, thus keeping Hanley healthier and a more effective hitter. With respect to his power and stolen base numbers, this assessment is accurate. Hanley has hit 7 prolific home runs and has 23 runs batted in through 35 games. He has had ample opportunities to run as the Marlins lead the majors in stolen bases. Yet despite these successes, Hanley maintains a .234 batting average. Alarmingly Hanley has a strikeout to walk ration of 2.07 to 1 of which remains higher than his career average of 1.66 strikeouts for every walk. This shows that while making the adjustment to a new position, Hanley has been too aggressive and less patient at the plate than his career averages suggest. As such, it seems that average is being sacrificed for the sake of power in that an aggressive home run approach is implemented rather than a careful and more patient pitch selection which has occurred during the prime years of Hanley’s career.
There is no doubt at this point that Ramirez has made an effective transition to third base with respect to the field. It remains that for this transition to be complete, Hanley must take more walks and make greater contact to raise his batting average.