Friday, January 4, 2008

Will Man-Ram Return To Greatness In '08?

What do the years 1998 and 2007 have in common? Those are the last two years in which Manny Ramirez didn't lead American League outfielders in OPS. So what can we expect from the AL's best offensive outfielder in 2008? Well, that's the "beauty" of Manny; no one really knows.

Ramirez was hurt by two things last year. Firstly, he got off to an especially slow start at the plate. In the first half of the season Manny hit just .284/.385/.465. But this is nothing new. In 2005, Manny's best offensive season with the Red Sox, he hit only .275/.361/.549 in the first half.

Ramirez isn't always in the best shape when he comes into Spring Training. Often times, he'll show up late. And when he does show up, he doesn't always look ready to play. Will things be different in 2008? Who knows.

I will say one thing though, and I mean this half jokingly, half serious. If Manny shows up to Spring Training in shape and on time this year, for the first time in many years, he could be primed for quite the year.

There are signs that Ramirez is finally realizing he isn't 30 any more. According to Peter Gammons, Manny's become a "manicle workout warrior". Manicle is Gammons' word, not mine. Gammons provides a brief first hand account of Manny's workouts, describing them as "extremely difficult."

Then, there is the second issue which hampered Manny's performance in 2007. For the second year in a row, Ramirez missed significant time due to an injury. Ramirez has typically been rather consistent with his health, playing 150+ games a season. The last two years, however, his playing time has been more like 130 games a year. Fortunately, Manny's 2006 and 2007 injuries are likely unrelated.

In 2006, Manny Ramirez suffered from patellar tendinitis in his right knee. In 2007, he suffered from a strained oblique in his right leg. Each injury caused him to miss about a month of playing time. I'm no doctor, but in my opinion, these injuries are likely related to the age of Ramirez. Patellar tendinitis specifically isn't an injury usually seen in baseball players. It is more often seen in basketball and soccer players, as it is a sign of excessive wear on the knee joint.

Manny Ramirez is going to be 36-years-old in 2008. I think he's clearly at risk for injury, but at this point in his career I wouldn't label him an injury liability. Even when he has been hurt, he's played 130+ games. Getting into better physical shape could lower his risk for injury. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see him need a little time off in the second half of 2008.

If Ramirez plays a full season in 2008, I see no reason why he couldn't hit 40 home runs and drive in 120. He finally appears to be happy in Boston, and he'll be playing for a $20 million team option in 2009. Ramirez will also have some serious OBP guys in front of him in Ellsbury (.394), Pedroia (.380) and Ortiz (.445). And after Lowell's 2007 season, pitchers and managers may be more wary of pitching around Ramirez.

But even if he misses some time to injury, he could still lead American League outfielders in OPS as he did in 2006. Oh yeah, and seal his Hall of Fame candidacy with his 500th home run. Unless, of course, he pulls a Roger Clemens.

20 comments:

Who We Are said...

Hope you don't mind but we linked over to this post from our site.

Ethan Michaels said...

I don't mind one bit. I even checked out your article on Manny. And I can't help myself, but I do have to take slight issue with it.

This is of course just my opinion, but I disagree with your notion that Manny checked out mentally after 2005 and that's why his numbers have been down.

He's always the first one to show up to Fenway and take batting practice. He's always the last one to stop looking at video. And if you don't believe in good nature, he has other incentive to check back in mentally in 2008. He has those nice $20 million team options to play for.

Peter N said...

Boy, Ethan, great post, but that last sentence, mentioning Rocket, was not needed. Manny is Manny, Roger is a money hungry fool who will go wherever the money is right. The same could have been said about Sir Manny, but not any more. If the Sox are doing well, and they did fairly well in '07, Manny will play his heart out. And Fenway's leftfield was literally MADE for him. Have a great weekend.
And "who we are," Ethan is correct...Manny worked his a** off just to get back into playing shape after that toubling and persistantly bothersome obilque injury. WWA, I'm going over to your place now...I think my blog is on Ethan's link list, if you want to check out mine.
Have a great weekend, Ethan....already!!!!!!

Ethan Michaels said...

Thanks Peter. I think you misunderstood the last sentence though. By pulling a Clemens, I was referencing likely PED use which could harm his chances of getting in the Hall. That's the only thing I can think of that would keep him out at this point.

Peter N said...

That's what I thought you might have meant. Manny seems to be in the clear (pun intended!. Thanks Ethan!!!

Ethan Michaels said...

He does appear clean as of now. I've never suspected him as a PED user cause he's really not a large guy, and he's always had crazy power going back to high school. You never know though. The only person on the Red Sox that would truly surprise me would be Pedroia : )

Tiffany L. Berryman said...

I was with you all the way until the Rocket remark! :)

Ethan Michaels said...

Hey, you gotta have fun : )

Who We Are said...

Team options are a good point. Money can make just about anyone work harder, even Adrian Beltre. Don't get me wrong, I heart Manny ever since he threw that cut-off to Damon, but I just think, as the years go on, Manny's done all he's wanted to do and now he's ready to play four months a year and take a siesta for two. There's no denying his strikezone discipline, which will be why he'll never be *that* bad. He's a great hitter, it's just his motivation seems arbitrary. Anyway, cheers.

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