If you squint hard enough you can see a little of last year’s Jason Grilli trade in the Blue Jays’ acquisition today of Neil Ramirez, via a waiver claim, from the San Francisco Giants.
Ramirez doesn’t throw as hard and he doesn’t have nearly the track record that Grilli did, but there are some more abstract points of comparison: He’s a fastball-slider guy (who will mix in some curveballs as well), and high strikeout guy, with 18 this year in 10.1 innings, and 110 in 92 big league innings for his career. He’s also been prone to issuing walks over the course of his career, as well home runs (he allowed 8 in 24 innings in the bigs last season, and has two already this year).
He also seems to be a guy whose stuff might still be all there (though on this I’m less confident than I was with Grilli), but who is in a real low ebb which can’t possibly be sustainable.
Ramirez has allowed 16 hits in those 10.1 innings this year, and 15 earned runs. Fifteen! You can understand why the Giants felt like keeping him around was becoming untenable. But that’s coming from a guy whose strand rate is a godawful 33.0%, and his BABIP allowed is an even .500.
It’s… uh… it’s also entirely possible that Neil Ramirez just sucks.
He had a nice year with the Cubs in 2014 — 50 G, 43.2 IP, 10.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 81.9% strand rate, 0.41 HR/9, 1.44 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 3.48 xFIP — but has mostly been hot garbage since then. His 2017 velocity is up a tick over last year, but with the new way velocity is being measured (at the release point by Statcast, instead of at 55 feet from the plate by PITCHf/x) it’s probably not all that different at all. And last year’s 92.0 mark on his four-seamer was more than two mph down from where he was at in 2014. Perhaps as a consequence, when he wasn’t walking guys he was getting his ass handed to him.
Since that tidy season in 2014, Ramirez has walked 5.21 batters per nine innings, allowed 2.05 home runs per nine, and pitched to a 6.70 ERA, and -0.4 WAR, per FanGraphs.
But I dunno! Maybe the Jays think they can fix something about how he’s pitching from the stretch — because otherwise, though we’re talking about impossibly small samples here, in 2017 it really hasn’t been so bad. Ramirez has faced 19 batters with the bases empty, and allowed just four hits (two doubles) and a walk while striking out seven. With men on base it’s been a completely different story: 34 batters faced, 12 hits, and a .400/.471/.655 slash line. With runners in scoring position it’s somehow even worse (1.342 OPS!).
MAYBE DON’T BRING HIM IN WITH RUNNERS ON, YOU GUYS!
So I guess we’ll see how that goes!
The other thing about this — y’know, beyond Ramirez kinda sucking — is the fact that the extra body in relief maybe *gulp* allows the Jays to stretch out Joe Biagini in the event that, god forbid, Marcus Stroman needs to miss any time, after his injury scare last night.
One hopes that’s a small element of this, or better still, a non-element. One hopes that, with a spot open on the 40-man and some optionable guys currently on the active roster, the Jays simply saw a chance to pick up a guy who they might be able to turn into something relatively useful. (And, y’know, used the fact that they have the worst record in the American League to beat any other waiver claimants to the punch).
Still… “I wonder what number Neil Ramirez will wear?” is a question we’re now actually asking ourselves about Blue Jays baseball in 2017.
So it goes.