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White Sox Thu Jul 23 2015

The White Sox Shortstop Dilemma

SoxThe White Sox's busy offseason had them pegged as the dark horse favorite for a Wild Card spot and fans we're excited for 2015. But General Manager Rick Hahn did not address the Sox's real issues: the infield, particularly what the future holds for the shortstop position.

The Sox have had some spectacular players man the double play combo over the years. Ozzie Guillen, Ray Durham, Steve Sax, Tadahito Iguchi, hell they even have bronze statues commemorating those positions. Nothing should be taken away from these players, but those current bronze statue incarnations frankly stink.

Everyone on the team has been under-performing this year with the exception of Chris Sale, but shortstop Alexei Ramirez seems to encompass every single issue the Sox are going through. Hitting, power, base running, fielding have all been sore spots for the team and the Cuban Missile. It's been nice to see Ramirez be a stalwart in the six spot for the past eight years because the Sox infield has been a revolving door, but sentimentality shouldn't be a bandage for his shortcomings.

Ramirez has generally been a slow starter, having a career line of .209/.247/.313 during March and April. That sluggish start has poured over into the following months this season, and he is currently one of the worst hitting shortstops in the league. He's only hitting .224 this year and the power has completed disappeared from his bat -- he has only socked three homers and has a dismal .298 slugging percentage. Ramirez only going deep three times this year isn't all that surprising, but it's a disappointment for the two-time Silver Slugger award winner.

These numbers would be forgivable if Ramirez was a good fielder, but that has also been an issue for him, too. Ramirez has never had a hot glove, but you could always count on him to make routine plays and flash some fancy leather from time to time. Unfortunately, his defensive prowess and mobility are deteriorating rapidly. According to Fangraphs, Ramirez has a defensive runs saved, the number of runs a player has saved or cost their team compared to the league average, of -4. Any rating greater than zero is considered above average, and Ramirez has done it before -- he notched a rating of 14 in 2012. But that stellar mark dropped considerably in 2013 and 2014, when he had ratings of 1 and -4, respectively. Being a middle infielder is a difficult gig, but there are plenty of guys out there doing far better work than Ramirez.

Even the simplest of plays seem to be difficult for the South Side shortstop these days. A statistic called Inside Edge Fielding shows how often a player makes a certain play on a scale from Impossible (0% of plays) to Certain (90-100%). Alexei is doing fine and dandy with Certain, he has made 96.7% of those plays, but that shiny stat drops off at Likely (60-90% of plays), probably a better stat to judge a player on because this is most of the plays they come into contact with. He is only scoring a 71.4 percent success rate, which is a major upgrade from 2014's mark of 58.6 percent, according to FanGraphs. It may be a bit too harsh to judge him on this, but just think about it: that is the meat and potatoes of his job. That's a failed double play, a missed fly ball or even a dropped throw from the catcher resulting in a steal. These snafus often lead to runs, and with the Sox playing the way they are, Ramirez and the rest of the team can't afford to make little mistakes.

The future of Ramirez in a White Sox uniform is a curious one, as his current contract is done at the end of the year. And the team has a $10 million option on him, but they may save some money and activate his $1 million buyout. He's going to be 34 in September, and with his defensive range dropping dramatically, Hahn may just cut bait. But who do the Sox have to take his place? Micah Johnson is more adept to play second base, Gordon Beckham is all but gone from the team and prospect Tim Anderson needs a few more years of seasoning before he reaches the show. Ramirez probably won't get dealt at the trade deadline, and it's going to be interesting to see what Hahn and the Sox brass do with the shortstop at the end of the season.

 
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jose / August 19, 2015 3:13 AM

Alexei Ramirez is the secod best FR in AL and 3th in asist 7th put outs, 3th double plays and 2th in TC.... so please give me a break will you. If CWS let him go will be a worst team in this league, more than now

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