Ramirez Is The Key To The Cubs Offense


A lot of concern has been voiced by Cubs fans about their lack of a true leadoff hitter as they head into Spring Training. While the Cubs do not have a specific top of the order hitter, I think the importance of a true leadoff hitter is exaggerated. If you look around baseball, you would see that very few teams have what is known as a true leadoff hitters. A lot of teams use a platoon of players during the season to mix and match for their leadoff spot. Which is what the Chicago Cubs will in all likelihood do this season with Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney, Blake DeWitt, and at times Kosuke Fukudome.

Instead of worrying about who the leadoff hitter is for the Cubs, Cubs fans should be more concerned with which Aramis Ramirez are we going to get this season?

The interesting thing about the 2011 season for Aramis Ramirez is that it is a contract year for him. At 32, this may be the last chance that Ramirez gets at having a major payday in the off-season.

If history is any indication, then Ramirez should be in line for big season in 2011. The last time Ramirez was in a contract year was 2006. During that season Ramirez hit .291/.352/.561 with 38 home runs and 119 RBI’s. The 38 home runs and 118 RBI’s were career highs for Ramirez in a season.

However, over the course of the past two seasons we have seen a different Aramis Ramirez. Whether it is because of nagging injuries or a poor work ethic, Ramirez’s numbers have been down. Obviously 2009 was a wash year for Ramirez as he suffered the should injury that year, but he still managed to hit .317/.389/.516 with 15 home runs and 65 RBI’s in 82 games. But 2010 was whole different story for the Cubs star as he got off to horrible start. As in his first 200 at bats in the 2010 season, Ramirez was hitting .168/.232/.285 with 5 home runs. After returning from the disabled list due to a sprained thumb, Ramirez returned to form as he hit .287/.333/.556 with 20 home runs in his last 300 plate appearances. That is reason enough for me to believe that Ramirez’s production for the first half the season was hindered by his injured thumb.

For the 2011 season, Bill James projects Ramirez to hit .275/.342/.498 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI’s. If that is the case, I do not think the offense will be one of the strong points for the Cubs in 2011 season. The last time Ramirez was completely healthy for the entire season was in 2008. Ramirez hit .289/.380/.518 with 27 home runs and 111 RBI’s in 2008, which is a large part in why the Cubs offense was one of the best in majors during that season. In the following seasons, the Cubs offense has went in the same direction that Ramirez has went. In 2009, when Ramirez was out with his shoulder injury, the Cubs offense struggled to score 2 or even 3 runs during the two months in which Ramirez was out.  In 2010, the Cubs offense dramatically improved during the last half of the season when Ramirez was healthy.

For the Cubs offense to be successful in 2011, Aramis Ramirez will have to be successful. Do not let the addition of Carlos Pena change your mind, Aramis Ramirez is still very much the focal point of the Cubs offense.

Stats and Projections are courtesy of FanGraphs and Bill James.