Elvin Ramirez was traded from the Mets to the Angels for cash, as the Mets looked to clear a 40 man spot, and the Angels wanted another reliever. Ramirez broke into the big leagues in 2012 with the Mets and showed good stuff but really struggled with walks and control. A 25 year old right-hander was originally signed with the Mets out of the Dominican Republic, and really hit a wall when he got to full season ball when it came to strikeouts. The Mets pushed him though, and even though he missed all of 2011, he had a lot of walks in 2012, but his strikeouts (and some deceptively low ERAs) eventually got him to the Majors.
He was mainly a fastball/splitter guy with the Mets in 2012, with the two pitches taking up 86 % (72 % fastballs) of his pitches thrown. His fastball is not dominating, but averaging 93.5 MPH according to the MLB AM tags, it is certainly a workable fastball out of the bullpen. He throws the splitter mainly against left-handed batters, but doesn’t use it as an out pitch, that is, he doesn’t increase his usage of it with two strikes. The only pitch he really increases usage for with 2 strikes is the slider to right-handed batters (as well as a curveball Brooks Baseball claims he throws 3 percent of the time, though the MLB AM tags are really tricky). The MLB tags have a lot of problems picking up his splitter, and want to separate them between a slider and a change, like some scouting reports want to do.
We are not working with a a big sample size, but he seemed to like to go up and gloveside:
We also see that he really likes to go down below the zone, and you would think this would be because of the splitter. However, it is actually his fastballs that he throws down and glove side.
His release point seems pretty straight over the top, so it is not like he is throwing sidearm to get sideways plane on the ball:
It is pretty inconsistent as you would expect. What is interesting is that his release point in games were actually pretty consistent. Pitch F/X seemed to be doing a strange thing in how it was reading his release point per game. To show this, I took an outing where he threw over 40 pitches in the Mets’ home park, versus another outing that he threw over 40 pitches in the New York Yankees’ home ballpark. I then clumsily inserted a line through the 0, what is supposed to be the middle of home plate (they are slightly different sizes and the right one is sort of blurry, sorry about that):
For some reason, in the Yankees ballpark, Pitch F/X picked him up as delivering a good number of pitches from the left side (pitcher view) of home plate. There could be two explanations for this. He could have just moved on the rubber. A goggle search containing Elvin Ramirez and where he stands on the rubber produced no helpful results. Since the height doesn’t show a real difference, it is unlikely he is doing anything drastically different with his delivery in the two outings. It could be, this is our second option, a Pitch F/X error. To test this, I looked at the data from the three Yankee pitchers in the game, Hiroki Kuroda, Ryoda Igarashi, and Cody Eppley, and looked at their release points from that day versus their next Pitch F/X outing on the road.
Pretty much impossible to tell the difference for Eppley (other than the slider was less stray on the road, but that is just on him, not on the data, Igarashi also had more stray marks on the road). We don’t really see a difference with Igarashi, especially not with the offset-ness that we saw with Ramirez. Kuroda is a little more interesting. If you were to draw a line through his two graphs through the -1 foot mark, you will notice that there are more pitches (just a few) on the other side in his start in Yankee Stadium than in his outing in Atlanta. However, the data is not shifted as a whole like Ramirez’, and you could make the argument that it is just a few stray Kuroda fastballs.
With all this said, and the bias in data in Yankee Stadium seemingly not existing, we do see changes in Ramirez. Ramirez came up in June, and at that point, he released the ball (just looking at his fastball, his primary pitch, for ease) -.44 feet horizontally (you can visually picture where that is on the graphs above). In July, he released the ball -.28 feet horizontally. This is, as best as I can tell, about a 1.33 inch difference. That doesn’t seem that significant in real terms. We are working with really small sample sizes, but he threw balls about 3% (that is, he threw strikes more) of the time less when he moved in July. In August, he moved in the same way, but very slightly, to -.22 feet. He only threw 17 pitches that month, so we are working with even smaller sample sizes, but the manual tags insists he threw some sinkers, something he didn’t throw in July, but did throw in June, and his fastball velocity lost a full MPH (but the sinker was where his fastball was). In September, he moved back towards where he originally was, but not quite as far, releasing the ball -.34 feet. This is why, when we look at the full year’s release points, it is so broad and strange looking.
The in game consistencies are encouraging when it comes to his walk rate, but the monthly changes are really strange. We don’t know what the conversations are like between the pitching coaches etc., they could have been tinkering with him, or he could have been doing this on his own. It is hard to take anything away from his minor league numbers except for the fact that he is going to walk a lot of batters. Again, we are talking about small sample sizes, just 307 fastballs, but his fastball was really ineffective. Hitters only had a .102 ISO on it, but the slash lines and K/BB were really inefficient. He had a high BABIP as well, so with his velocity, and the placement, I expect his fastball to perform better in 2013.
The Angels really need bullpen help, but Steamer projects him as a replacement pitcher. One would think his pitches, both his ability to throw a splitter or a change, and his ability to go in with a solid velocity fastball and possibly a sinker, should keep his platoon splits down, especially since he comes over the top. He is 6-3, so he shouldn’t have problem getting on top of the ball (though there seemed to be a lot of pitches thrown way up high suggesting he was having that problem at times). For him to have success in 2013, he needs to be consistent, so the Angels need to make sure that he stands on the same part of the rubber and repeats his delivery. He seems to have decent stuff, and a plan that can work, he just needs to throw strikes.