It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.They were the suckiest of sluggers, they were the strongest of sluggers. They couldn’t hit, they couldn’t be retired. This is the tale of two sluggers who gave us two quarter seasons of two extremes . . . that apparently made no difference.
Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena began the year looking like two black holes in an already pretty crappy lineup. The two corner infielders seemed to form the cornerstone of the Cubs’ offensive hopes, so when they crumbled it was no surprise that this team struggled to win.
Then something happened. Like a Dyson promises never to do, they both stopped sucking. In fact, they didn’t just no longer suck, they began to hit like players whose team might have a chance of winning. I don’t need to tell you how that worked out for the team, but I thought I would take a look at just how drastically different their springs were from their summers.
I’ve divided each of their seasons so far into halves. Aramis Ramirez has played in 86 games, so I separated his pre-All Star stats into 43-game splits. Carlos Pena was less cooperative and played in 87, so I’ll just put game 44 (a 1-3, 1 BB performance) in the second half to better support my case.
Here were their first-half numbers:
Now that’s bad. For both guys. Aramis had a respectable batting average, but it corresponded with Theriot-grade power numbers and no small amount of BAbip luck. The team was actually within shouting distance of .500 at the time, little thanks to these two. So let’s see how they did in the second half.
I love this. Both men improved despite seeing their BAbip and OBP go down, mainly because they started to hit for power. They both struck out at about the same frequency (a bit more, actually). They both walked a little less frequently. The obvious difference is that they both started hitting the ball out of the ballpark, which tends to help offensive matters. What I love most? The impact this made on the team.
The power surge in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup coincided with a precipitous drop in win percentage. Essentially, Ramirez hitting like an All Star and Pena slugging the ball with authority saved the team from being lethally unwatchable. The Cubs went from being a near-.500 team with no pop in the first 1/4 of the season to being a .350 team in the second, all while the guys they needed to hit for power started to do so with consistency.
So if your best hitters work their way out of a power slump on a sustained basis and your team actually becomes twice as bad, what does that say about your team? I think it says, “You suck!” really, really loud. Rammy and ‘Losy hitting for power was one of those “if only” factors optimistic Cubs fans clung to in the first quarter of the season. Well, that “if only” came true, and the team got worse. This team? This record. That’s our reality, Cubs fans. Savor every moment.