Here’s What’s Wrong With Manny

A lot of people have been worried about Manny Ramirez lately. When your batting line is .241/.374/.527 that’s cause for worry when your batting average was .308/.397/.613 a year ago and .325/.427/.587 in 2003. In 2002, he hit .349/.450/.647. However,w hat if I told you that nothing’s wrong with Manny? No, really, nothing’s wrong with Manny. His batting eye is fine, he just has a slight problem. You may think that’s a little odd – nothing wrong with Manny, but he has a slight problem?

Just because he has a problem doesn’t mean anything’s wrong – it’s just means something’s odd … so odd, that it should right itself eventually. While I’ve included his 2002 numbers in this table, please keep in mind this 2002 Manny has only happened thrice to Manny – 2002 and 1999/2000, so this is not the normal Manny. It does however further illustrate the issue with Manny. Let’s walk through this.

WHAT’S WRONG, MANNY?
Manny Ramirez has struggled this year. Here’s why he’s struggled.
Year BA v. RHP BA v. LHP SLG v. RHP SLG v. LHP
2005 .284 .158 .649 .289
2004 .309 .306 .605 .631
2003 .305 .385 .573 .629
2002 .331 .438 .612 .822

As you can see, notwithstanding the insane 2002 season Manny had, Manny’s been around the .300 range with his batting average against righties, and has been consistent in SLG against lefties and righties. It’s the batting average against lefties that has truly made him “great” while it’s actually just inflated his statistics. In a three-year split (2002-2003) Manny has had 1187 AB v. RHP and 376 AB v. LHP. This means that in three years, Manny’s had half a year against lefties, which illustrates how few lefties are in the league, so lefty statistics really inflate batting averages as a whole. In 2003, Manny hit .325, but as you can see in the table, Manny was actually WORSE than he was in 2004 against right-handers – it’s only the lefty totals that shot his inflation up. A lot of people worried about Manny’s average when the 2004 season closed, but they didn’t realize that it was the lefty average that was keeping Manny up.

I’m not saying that Manny’s complete lack of hitting against lefties isn’t worrisome, but it’s much better than assuming Manny’s down across the board everywhere, when he’s really not, it’s only against lefties. I would rather Manny rake righties at a MVP pace and lefties at an AAA pace than be average across the board because then he doesn’t excel anywhere. He does excel – it’s just against righties and lefties are trending downwards for him which means that for whatever reason, lefties are giving him a lot of troubule. He’s not going to end the season with a .158 AVG against lefties, but he won’t end it at .438, either. Manny’s RHP numbers are down this year as well, but give him time. He’ll get it up again, and if he can crack it to .305, he’ll be at 2003 levels – but the lefty average will probably settle around .250, giving him a cumulative batting average under .300 with the sky falling down.

But it’s NOT falling down. Sure, maybe Manny is no longer worth $20 million because he can’t hit lefties anymore, but he’s still a pretty durned good hitter, and we’re going to be thankful he’s on our team. Aren’t we thankful that Trot Nixon is on our team? And Trot Nixon couldn’t hit lefties if his life depended on it. It does put a chink in our plans in that now we have two outfielders that we need to replace against lefties with only one outfielder on the bench to do it – Jay Payton. But I think this is – and this is only assuming Manny does not get his lefty numbers back up to a .300 pace – potentially a good thing. First off, against lefties, we can sit Manny and rest him, because the older he gets, the more he will need rest. Kevin Millar can shift to left-field and that opens up first base for David Ortiz to play, thereby keeping him fresh. Who’s the DH, you then ask. Well, it’s not going to be the end of the world if Manny or Nixon draws the DH slot then, and we can even do some shuffling. Perhaps Bellhorn or Mueller or Renteria or Mirabelli or Youkilis can get a DH slot that day. It will allow more players to play, keeping them fresher.

And you know, the beauty of Boston is that we get what the Yankees don’t get – a deep bench is vital to succeeding. The Yankees have a ridiculously thin bench, with people who stand around flexing their biceps while our bench is a deep pool. Is anyone really that afraid to stick Youkilis or Payton (or even Vazquez) out there for a day? No, because they’ve started before. Youkilis we know very well because of last year, Payton used to be a starting outfielder (and probably will be again) and Vazquez is a former starter. These aren’t bit players we have, they are true starters who just happen to have a bench spot in Boston. No more Damon Buford, no more Darren Bragg (Bragg was great, though) … no more Jose Offerman.

Would I prefer the .438 LHP Manny Ramirez? You bet, but the possible scenario I just put forth has its positives. So let’s give Manny time, see if he can get that lefty BA back up to where it should be. If not, it’s not the end of the world. And Sam … there’s your answer. It’s not as bad as it looks.