The Evolution Of Cesar Ramos

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 03: Pitcher Cesar Ramos #27 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on April 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Relief pitchers are an unpredictable sort, at least more so than any other position in baseball. Success stories come out of nowhere all the time after a player finds a new team, new coach, new pitch, you name it. As Rays fans we've seen our share of successes; J.P. Howell, Grant Balfour, Juan Cruz, Joaquin Benoit and Fernando Rodney to name a few.

Two days ago Steve wrote about Howell, and how the return of Kyle Farnsworth may affect him and the rest of the bullpen. One name Steve mentioned as a possible candidate for Durham was Cesar Ramos, who has been trying his best to prevent that from happening. It's been only 20 innings, but the process he's shown and results he's gotten are promising.

You remember Ramos. He's the 28-year-old lefty the Rays acquired in the Jason Bartlett trade. Last year he appeared in 59 games but threw just 43.2 innings. A starter most of his career in the minors, he made just one appearance of two innings or more. This season he's appeared in 11 games but has 20.2 innings under his belt, seven of two innings or more. His two out performance in Kansas City Tuesday night was his shortest to date, but was also the epitome of his season. He threw just two pitches, both two-seam fastballs, to get the inning ending ground ball double play. The two seamers and ground balls are what Ramos has been living on, and could be his key to success going forward.

Let me start off by saying that pitch classification isn’t an exact science. Sites like Brooksbaseball.net do their best but humans aren’t perfect. With that being said look at the difference between four seam and two seam fastball usage between this season and last.

2012

Pitch

Count

Frequency

H. Mvt

V. Mvt

Mph

H. Rel

V. Rel

Spin Θ

RPM

Fourseam (FA)

93

30%

8.77

-11.96

92.27

2.08

6.60

148

2,530

Sinker (SI)

113

36%

14.73

-15.18

92.24

2.20

6.52

130

2,743

Slider (SL)

27

9%

1.83

-26.39

84.40

2.20

6.56

155

924

Curveball (CU)

44

14%

-6.51

-55.14

72.92

2.19

6.45

334

1,275

Changeup (CH)

33

11%

14.13

-21.03

85.98

2.35

6.40

126

2,348

2011

Pitch

Count

Frequency

H. Mvt

V. Mvt

Mph

H. Rel

V. Rel

Spin Θ

RPM

Fourseam (FA)

286

43%

10.62

-13.68

92.95

2.61

6.43

139

2,470

Sinker (SI)

89

13%

14.76

-16.18

92.92

2.39

6.47

126

2,640

Slider (SL)

55

8%

-0.15

-30.41

83.38

2.61

6.37

159

465

Curveball (CU)

108

16%

-5.60

-54.57

73.22

2.51

6.33

339

1,244

Changeup (CH)

127

19%

14.52

-22.64

85.32

2.70

6.31

122

2,298

The first thing you’ll notice is that the two seam fastball gets labeled as a sinker. A two seamer does sink, so there's some truth there, but when I think of a sinker I picture it in the more traditional sense like a Derek Lowe or Brandon Webb. That’s a trend I’ve seen across many other pitchers' pages. The second thing you might notice is Ramos has already thrown more two seamers than he did last year in less than half the innings. There’s a correlation between two seam fastball usage and ground ball percentage. Of the top 10 relievers in GB% (min. 20 IP) seven throw a two seamer a majority of the time. The ground ball leader, Brad Zielger, relies on a funky delivery so selection may not mean as much to him.

As I mentioned before we're using a sample of just 20 innings, but when dealing with relievers sometimes a small sample is a necessary evil. We don't have the luxury of 100+ innings of data. It seems clear that Ramos has a different strategy this season. In fact, all his pitches aside from the four seam fastball have gotten ground ball rate of at least 66% this season. Expecting him to be able to sustain thatkind of success is unreasonable, but if he can continue to get groundballs at an above average rate he's going to make it awfully tough decision for someone.

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