I’m conflicted about spring training. On one hand, baseball is back and that’s just fantastic. On the other, reading about Gregor Blanco hitting ropes during batting practice might just be the lowest form of baseball news out there. On the evolutionary scale, in which an important news item is a fully evolved life form, reports on Gregor Blanco’s hitting — a thing he’s never been able to do well — is akin to a three-celled organism that can only spin in circles. Baseball is beautiful unique snowflake blah-blah-blah, but I swear to God, spring training really burns my circuits sometimes. Spring training is really cool and really kind of ridiculous at the same time.
Anyways, since this is a baseball blog, and you’re all very needy, here is today’s Important Spring Training Opinion(tm).
Ramon Ramirez should earn the last spot in the bullpen
I’m not sure if this is a thing to debate, but here we go. The Giants should carry 12 pitchers to start the year. That means a seven man bullpen that’s basically set. Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez, Mijares, and Kontos are all locks for the pen. That leaves something of a competition for the final spot between Chad Gaudin, Ramon Ramirez, maybe someone like Sandy Rosario, and maybe Scott Proctor.
Alex Pavlovic from a blog post yesterday:
Throwing to Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, right-hander Chad Gaudin was impressive. The non-roster invitee allowed just one ball to be put into play and showed plenty of movement down in the zone. Fellow veteran Scott Proctor also drew raves from hitters, and Bochy said he was pleased with what he’s seen from the relief pitchers fighting for the last spot in the bullpen.
The secret about Chad Gaudin is that he’s not very good. The same for Scott Proctor who, at least now, is kind of healthy, but he’s still a 36-year-old reliever with terrible health and without any really great seasons under his belt. (Or seasons that happened in the past five years.) My stunning logic is this: Ramon Ramirez has been decent at times in his career. Let’s pick the guy that has the best chance to be decent.
Ramirez, 31, is coming off a down season with the Mets. In 2012, Ramirez walked 12.6-percent of the batters he faced. It was a career high for Ramirez, nearly 2.5 percentage points above his career average (10.8-percent). He posted walk percentages of 9.5 and 9.2-percent in 2010 and 2011. His strikeout percentage dipped as well, falling to 18.8-percent (20.1-percent career). The good news is that while Ramirez’s ERA was high at 4.24, his FIP was a more respectable 3.92, indicating that he probably had a little bad luck to go alongside his control problems.
Ramirez, of course, had some pretty good seasons with the Giants. As a Giant, in 95.2 innings pitched, Ramirez struck out 20.8-percent of the batters he faced while walking 9.5-percent. His adjusted ERA (ERA+) as a Giant is 175, the highest of any team he’s ever pitched on. ERA+ has its issues, but Ramirez should be good enough to take the 12th bullpen spot. He’s clearly not a “strike-thrower,” but neither is Gaudin (10.4-percent) or Proctor (10.9-percent). And, unlike Gaudin and Proctor, he’s had at least some recent success.
Looking back through some old highlights of Ramirez while he pitched for the Giants, I was reminded that he flashed a pretty nice changeup at times. I mostly remembered him as a fastball/slider reliever, but pitches like this:
Are darned nice to look at it.
(This game also featured this play from Jose Guillen, Giant.)
So, why not pick Ramon Ramirez? He’s probably a 3.70-3.80-ish FIP pitcher in 2013 and that’s not terrible for your back-end bullpen guy. And he even might be acceptable with a chance for slightly more. Picking Ramirez up on a minor league deal was a great move for the Giants. Now, let’s use him.