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And now a few words in praise of the Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez

September 20, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez connects on his second home run of the game against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix on Thursday.
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez connects on his second home run of the… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

I’d like to go on about how everybody in Arizona is a knucklehead and Sen. John “Get Off My Lawn!” McCain really must be a clueless old fart, but there is something more important to write about:

Hanley Ramirez is one seriously wicked hitter.

Injuries have limited him to about a half season, but it’s been some half season. Better than any other players’ in baseball.

Let’s state the obvious: The Dodgers are a completely different ballclub when he’s in the lineup. The Dodgers are 53-28 when Ramirez plays, and 35-37 when he does not.

“This is one of the best hitters in baseball,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “He can really hit. I want the whole world to see this.”

According to ESPN stats, Ramirez has the highest batting average (.351) and slugging percentage (.656) of anyone with at least 300 plate appearances this season.

He is currently suffering from a lower back problem that also affects his leg. But he demanded to start Thursday and hit only two home runs in the Dodgers’ division-clinching, pool-party victory over the Diamondbacks.

“Everybody knows I'm not 100%,” Ramirez said.

In exactly half a season (81 games), he has 20 home runs and 57 RBI. Double that over a full season, and you’re looking at some rarefied numbers. He crushes baseballs. When he hits the ball, you imagine it indenting from the force of his blow.

Ramirez gives the Dodgers a depth to their lineup perhaps no other team in baseball can match. The team strength remains their pitching, but with Ramirez in the lineup they are also an offensive force. They go from good to special.

The Dodgers have only nine regular-season games remaining, so their hope is they have time to get his back healthy while still playing him enough to keep his bat sharp.

Even defensively, he has performed better than I imagined. He’s not a jaw-dropping defensive wiz at short, but he’s been mostly reliable and consistent.

It’s no coincidence that when Ramirez was healthy, the Dodgers went on their historic midseason 42-8 run. And it’s hardly stretching it to write that if he is healthy for the first playoff appearance in his history, the Dodgers will be favored.

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