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Tampa Bay Rays: Erasmo Ramirez and Reading Too Much Into Small Samples

By Robbie Knopf
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Tonight, Erasmo Ramirez will start again for the Tampa Bay Rays. Few people predicted it. Ramirez’s struggles have reached frightening proportions for the Rays as he has allowed 16 runs, 15 earned, in jut 6.1 innings pitched. He allowed 7 runs in 2 innings in his first Rays game, and then his second start was hardly better as he allowed 9 more in 3.1 frames. He has struck out 8 and walked 8 as well in that time, which doesn’t inspire any confidence either. Doesn’t Ramirez look like a lost cause, at least for now?

Rays fans loved Joe Maddon, but one of their biggest criticisms of him was the fact that he had too much trust in his players. He believed in guys like Grant Balfour and Joel Peralta in 2014 and Carlos Pena in 2012 for far longer than they deserved. Couldn’t everyone in the stadium know that they were lost causes? Wasn’t Maddon losing games for the Rays in pursuit of outcomes that were exceedingly unlikely?

Yet while the preceding paragraph may have a lot of truth to it, we are not talking about months of failure for Erasmo Ramirez–we’re talking about three games, only two of which were actually bad. What if Maddon and the Rays had demoted Jake Odorizzi after his rough April last season? Would Odorizzi have ever turned into the great pitcher that he is today? Doesn’t every player warrant at least a few games to turn himself around even if a few weeks is too much?

There is another consideration with regards to Ramirez: he can’t just be sent down to Triple-A. He is an out-of-options player who would have to be designated for assignment and pass through waivers to end up in Durham. If Ramirez had enough trade value to yield Mike Montgomery before the season, wouldn’t someone claim him in exchange for nothing after just a few bad appearances? Even if no one would, is it really worth the risk for the Rays?

The danger of asking leading questions–ones with yes or no answers–is that often the choice being offered is misleading. We don’t know how Odorizzi would have reacted after he had been sent down to Triple-A and the argument can be made that it is worthwhile to expose Ramirez to waivers. At the same time, however, saying that the Rays constantly have too much faith in their players presents a false dichotomy as well because every case is different. The Rays looked at Ramirez’s circumstances and decided that he deserved one more start and maybe not a single one beyond that. There doesn’t have to be anything controversial about their decision.

Ramirez’s velocity hasn’t gone down like Jeff Beliveau‘s did before he needed surgery or like Balfour’s did before the Rays let him go. The team sees a pitcher still capable of succeeding in the major leagues, especially given the adjustments they have made to his arsenal. The Rays have had Ramirez drastically increase his changeup usage against right-handed hitters from 11% to 23% and increase his emphasis on his four-seam fastball. They still believe in those changes.

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The Tampa Bay Rays aren’t taking anything for granted as they hand Erasmo Ramirez the ball tonight. They called up Everett Teaford to provide length if he falters again, and if he does, they may not be able to justify keeping him on their roster. Even if they believe in his future, if he continues to fail getting hitters out and hangs their bullpen out to dry, his designation for assignment may be in order no matter what.

On the other hand, Erasmo Ramirez has not faltered enough to run out of chances yet. He deserves another start to prove that he remains the pitcher of whom the Rays thought highly enough to acquire and that he can help this team win games. The end for Ramirez on the Rays’ roster could come soon, but let’s give him tonight’s game before we pass any more judgments.

Next: The Undercards: German Marquez Finds His Form

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