View From The Bleachers

March 28, 2011

2011 X-Factor: Aramis Ramirez

Filed under: Featured,General — Brandon @ 5:00 am

This could be the year that the Cubs third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, finally returns to form.  The difference in 2011 is that Ramirez has the motivation he needs – a contract season.  This is the final year of a five year, $70 million contract that he inked before the 2007 season.  He is going to have to pick up the pace if he wants the Cubs to even think about picking up the $16 million club option on him for 2012, or if he wants another large payday on the free agent market.

If the Chicago Cubs are going to compete in the NL Central, they need Ramirez to produce offensively.  Mike Quade has penciled him in as the cleanup hitter, and the Cubs’ mediocre offense needs the big bats in the middle of the order to drive in runs if they want to be successful.  The rotation is solid, and the bullpen is much improved, but run scoring remains a question mark for the Northsiders.

At 32 years old, Ramirez should still have plenty of baseball left in him.  He has been held back by a shoulder injury the past few seasons, but should be 100 percent in 2011.  Last season Aramis hit just .241 with 25 homers and 83 RBI’s.  Those numbers will not cut it for an overpaid cleanup man.

His power numbers have been way down since signing the lucrative contract.  In the first four years of the deal, he has not reached 30 home runs.  Before he was signed long term, Aramis hit 30 or more bombs three straight seasons.  The last time he drove in over 100 runs was 2008.  Whether the monetary incentive is all it takes to allow Ramirez to duplicate his 2006 stats (38 homers, 119 RBIs) remains to be seen.

According to several media reports, Ramirez is working in the cages more this spring.  He has finally accepted the help of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who is respected around the game as one of the best in the business.  Aramis made his first trip to the Cubs Convention in January, after missing the previous seven.  He said that he wants to make the most of 2011 because it could be his final year in Chicago and he wants the fans to know that he appreciates them.

This spring, in 17 games, He is hitting .311 and has knocked in seven runs.  Defensively, he got off to a rocky start, as did most of the Cubs in an error-filled opening week.  Since then, he has calmed down and he has only made four errors, all of which were in the beginning of Cactus League games.

Ramirez’s glove at the hot corner is also important for the team.  After the 2007 campaign, his fielding percentage has entered a state of decline, paralleling his batting average.  In ’07 his fielding percentage was .972, and it has not been above .950 since.  If Aramis can make the routine plays, he will be doing his job defensively.

Since the Cubs do not have a lot of depth at third base or in the middle of the order, it is necessary for Ramirez to be in the lineup on a daily basis.  He must avoid stints on the disabled list, which have plagued him the last few seasons.

Baseball expert Bill James was not very generous to the former All-Star.  James’ 2011 projections were clearly influenced by the last two seasons, which Ramirez suffered due to injuries.  Aramis is projected at a .275 batting average, 24 homers and 89 RBIs.  Although that would be an improvement from 2010, the Cubs need more production than that. He is the X Factor for the 2011 Cubs.

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  • Rich Beckman

    “He said that he wants to make the most of 2011 because it could be his final year in Chicago and he wants the fans to know that he appreciates them.”

    …and it is just a coincidence that how he plays directly effects how much he makes next year….

    If nothing else, he may have a future in public relations.

    To the point, if Ramirez somehow manages to come close to those 2006 stats and Alfonso (Y Factor ?) Soriano plays 1/2 his contract then this will be an exciting year!!

  • Doc Raker

    Thanks Brandon for laying out the anatomy of yet another one of the Cubs declining sluggers. We should all just hope that Aram, Sorryano and Pena return to 2007 form but hope is all we have because it isn’t realistic. In 2012 Aramis Ramirez will sign a modest free agent contract for a small market team in the MLB free agent system of parity and play out his final years as a shadow of his former all star self. When the Cubs rid themselves of declining sluggers and have a roster of young hungry talent like Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Geo Soto they will be exciting again.
    * I wonder if W Castillo can play 1b?

  • Chuck

    Hopefully we will be seeing Vitters next year as the starting 3B because he earned it although I suspect his defense will put him at 1B. Aramis used to be one of my favorite players, but he is now holding the title of my least favorite on the team. Between the trips to the DL that have become a metaphysical certainty, lack of participation in anything outside of the games and worst body language on the team (He carries himself in a manner that reeks “I don’t give a crap”. I am not saying that he does not care because I am sure he does care. He just looks like he could give a rip.) he has become a person I just can’t root for.
    Unfortunately, Brandon is absolutely correct in that the Cubs season will hinge on Aramis. If the Cubs are going to make any noise int he Central, he has to rake. Ugh. I think I just threw up in my mouth.

  • jswanson

    we both know they would opt for Koyie over Beef, not necessarily for his bat, but rather for his strong dugout presence. Or wait…we already did that with Pena.

  • Chet

    I agree with Rich and Chris to some extent. If there was an award for worst body language it has to go to Aramis.
    That being said he strikes me as the type of player that will get up for a contract season. I feel sorry for the next team to sign him….oh and by the way that could be us if Vitters takes another step back. The market for third basemen next year is weak to say the least unless we can swing a trade. Could be a blood bath…..especially if he plays well this year and we end up paying out the backside on a three year deal.

  • Larry Sproul

    Gotta agree with Rich . The Cubs dont really go anywhere without Ramirez and Soriano doing better . Yes they can do much better !
    Unless Ramirez puts up huge numbers dont expect alot of clubs scouting him . He just might end up President of the cock fight league in his hometown .

  • jswanson

    Well, if he doesn’t perform, Quade might let him loose. Turns out he has a set…
    He just earned a point in my book.

  • http://van Buddy

    Call me crazy, but I think Ramirez returns to form this year. If he’s healthy, he’ll hit. End of story.

  • Seymour Butts

    I may be WAY too optimistic, but I’m expecting good things From Aramis this season. I’m also going to start using my anti-spam word in the first sentence of my comments, and capitalize it.
    Along with Aramis, I expect good years form his buds Athos, and Porthos, but that’s another story altogether.

  • jswanson

    @SB…at least Aramis has a regal sound to it. Sort of masculine…especially when compared to Starlin, Darwin, or Koyie.

  • Lizzie

    I think Aramis’ mama had an old bottle of Aramis cologne on her night stand when the little guy was conceived, but didn’t quite nail the pronunciation being she’s probably got an accent.

  • Lizzie

    P.S. Seymour, I think I can CONNECT with that idea.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    When Derrek Lee broke his wrist in 2006, Ramirez didn’t pick up the slack. He started hitting when the games didn’t matter. He used to be one of my favorite Cubs, in fact, his jersey shirt was the first Cubs one I ever bought. I have only worn his shirt twice since last year, one when he had his 7 RBI game, and I thought he was finally going to snap out of his funk and the Cubs were set to make a charge to the playoffs, and the other the day Santo died, because while I have soured on him now, he has been our best 3B since Ronnie. 3B was a revolving door until he came, but being the tallest midget means nothing.

    I just hope Ramirez can keep 3B warm until Vitters is ready for the show.

  • Buddy

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for Vitters.

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