I briefly thought of presenting that stat without any context, because, wow. But that’s probably a bit unfair, so check out the batting leaderboards at FanGraphs if you would. Hanley Ramirez, you’ll note, doesn’t appear. That’s because his injuries and missed time have limited him to merely 201 plate appearances, so he doesn’t qualify for the batting title. Now pull down the “minimum PA” selector to 200 plate appearances, and there he is, tied with Edwin Encarnacion, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Beltre for 27th at 3.5 WAR.
Of course, when you look at the other guys in that 3.5-4.0 range, from Jason Kipnis on down, you’ll notice that most of them have well over 400 plate appearances. Pedroia actually has nearly 500, as you can see at right. (The two columns at right are “games played” and “plate appearances”.)
Since WAR is a counting stat rather than a rate stat — think of it in the same way that you can’t hit 40 homers in three games, but you can hit .500 — that means that Ramirez has been roughly as valuable as Pedroia despite playing only 40% of the time. (Insert “WAR isn’t perfect and defensive metrics are still improving” disclaimers all over the place here.)
Ramirez has been worth about 1.75 WAR per 100 plate appearances so far, and if you set a standard regular season at 650 plate appearances, Ramirez has played about 30% of a full season. (He’s actually topped that number several times, but his years of 700 plate appearances were somewhat inflated because he often hit leadoff in Miami.) Were he to keep up this current pace over 450 more plate appearances, you end up with 11.37 WAR for the full season.
If you’re trying to put that into historical context, well, that’s a number that’s been topped just 18 times in the history of baseball, and nine of those are Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth. So, yeah, it’s good.
Obviously, this is just a fun thought exercise, because it’s not really rooted in reality. Ramirez can’t play a full season, because that time is gone, and if he stays healthy he’ll likely top out at around 420 plate appearances or so. Even if he could, he’s not sustaining a .401 BABIP for an entire year, and I’ll admit I’m not totally buying a defensive ranking that has him being average or above for the first time since 2008. (He’s been better than expected, but I don’t believe the times that he’s been unable to complete a double play that many other shortstops would have are taken into account.)
The point is not to try and rank Ramirez on a historical scale, nor to expect him to be this good indefinitely. The point is simply to try to stop and realize… good lord, has he been unbelievable. For all the credit given to Yasiel Puig, I think we know who has really been the focal point of this season turning around, and it’s going to be really fun down the stretch if he keeps this up and gets himself into an NL MVP conversation that has no obvious front-runner and just lost Yadier Molina to injury.
We see you, Hanley. We see you.