It’s official, the starting rotation for the Seattle Mariners on opening day will not include Erasmo Ramirez, while Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer will fill the last two spots in the rotation. Quite honestly, I am dumbfounded. The purpose of this article is quite simple; I will make three main points. 1) Erasmo Ramirez is a quality major league pitcher. 2) Erasmo Ramirez is better than Blake Beavan. 3) Erasmo Ramirez is better than Brandon Maurer.
1) Erasmo Ramirez is a quality major league pitcher
I must start by admitting the fact that Ramirez has only logged 47 innings as a starting pitcher. However, in that time, he posted a 3.24 FIP and a 5.13 K/BB. In that small period of time he also had a 1.0 WAR which is pretty impressive for such a short window of opportunity.
I decided to try to find a pitcher who had thrown a full season with similar statistics to Ramirez in order to get an idea for where his WAR would have been after a full season. The best comparison I could find between Ramirez’ 47 innings and another pitcher’s full season belonged to Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants.
Admittedly, it is not a perfect comparison. For example, Ramirez’ FIP and xFIP were 16 and 30 points better than Cain’s respectively, he walked about .5 less batters per 9 innings, and he did a better job of getting swinging strikes, especially outside the strike zone. On the other hand, Cain allowed slightly fewer line drives and instead got more fly balls and also had a much lower ERA, although we all know that the ERA is an unreliable statistic. If you want to see their stats side by side, feel free to do so here.
Nevertheless, Cain had the closest resemblance to Ramirez last year that I could find. Cain’s WAR in 2012 was 3.8. So, if Ramirez was able to replicate production similar to that of his 47 innings for an entire season, his WAR would have probably been in the 3.5-4.0 range. A 3.5 WAR would have put him in the top 25 in the MLB last year. That’s not bad at all.
Now, let’s evaluate his performance compared to some of the best rookie starting pitchers in baseball last year.
|K/9||BB/9||FIP||xFIP||Swinging Strike %|
|Erasmo Ramirez||7.85||1.53||3.24||3.52||12.2 %|
|Wade Miley||6.87||1.60||3.04||3.70||8.6 %|
|Jarrod Parker||6.95||3.13||3.43||3.95||9.9 %|
|Tommy Milone||6.49||1.71||3.93||4.02||8.7 %|
|Matt Moore||8.88||4.11||3.93||4.35||11.8 %|
|League Average Rookie Starter||7.28||3.16||4.24||4.16||8.7 %|
I would say Ramirez matches up nicely compared to these premier rookies. It is also worth noting that the other four pitchers listed here had WARs ranging from 4.7 to 2.5.
2) Erasmo Ramirez is a better than Blake Beavan
There are so many ways to go about this argument. First of all, Ramirez’ WAR was 250% of Beavan’s, and it took him about a third of the innings Beavan threw to do so. Essentially the only thing Beavan is superior to Ramirez at is that he walks less batters, although barely less. However, the ability to not walk anybody is basically worthless if it comes at the expense of allowing lots of homeruns. Beavan had a HR/9 of 1.36 in 2012 despite getting about half of his starts in quite possibly the best pitchers park in the MLB. Even at home, he averaged over a homerun per nine innings. Not even Jason Vargas gave up that many homeruns in Safeco Field.
Compare Blake Beavan’s 1.14 HR/9 in Safeco Field last year to Ramirez’ .31 HR/9 in Safeco. Not to mention the fact that Ramirez did this while walking almost as few of guys as Beavan while striking out almost twice as many. For more on the Blake Beavan discussion, I would highly recommend this article written by Dave Cameron last June. Although it’s from awhile ago, the points he made are still quite applicable.
Ramirez’ swinging strike rate from last year was exactly twice Beavan’s. In my mind, some of the most revealing statistics about Blake Beavan are his outside the zone swing rate of 31.8% and outside the zone contact rate of 80.9%. Essentially what this means is that he is about average at getting batters to chase pitches outside the zone, but when they do, they make contact about 80% of the time. Now compare Beavan’s 80.9% to Ramirez’ number of 57.8% and the major league average of 68.3%.
No matter what way you look at it, Erasmo Ramirez is a much better pitcher than Blake Beavan.
3) Erasmo Ramirez is a better than Brandon Maurer
It is a harder to compare Ramirez to Maurer just because Maurer has never pitched past AA. Despite the difference, Ramirez posted better a K/9 and BB/9 in his time as a major league starter than Maurer did in AA Jackson.
There is no doubt that Maurer has looked good this spring, but there is a big difference between spring training and the regular season, and there is an even bigger difference between class AA and the major leagues.
Just look at Danny Hultzen as he made his transition from AA Jackson to AAA Tacoma last year. His FIP jumped from 2.84 to 4.29 and his ERA went from 1.19 to 5.92.
I think that skipping AAA entirely is simply too big of a leap at one time for Maurer to make. Maurer may not be far away from being a solid major league pitcher, but we have already seen that Ramirez is a good pitcher. Why send down the good pitcher to allow a potentially good pitcher to be rushed to the big leagues?
I think that Maurer will be a solid starter down the road, but there is no reason to force him into the big leagues right now when there is a better pitcher already prepared for a MLB starting role.
Overall, I think that Erasmo Ramirez got the short end of the stick this spring. I believe that he is a better pitcher than both Beavan and Maurer, and he deserves to be in Seattle’s starting rotation. I would love to get your take on this issue in the comment section below.