Alexei Ramirez has room for improvement and he knows it.
But after a dismal first half of play, the White Sox shortstop has had a little more to smile about of late, including a sterling defensive effort in Friday’s 1-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Ramirez has looked almost nothing like the Gold Glove finalist and Silver Slugger award winner he was in 2014, carrying a career-worst .547 OPS and poor defensive statistics into Saturday’s game. He’s hopeful that both he and the White Sox can change their fortunes in the second half of the season.
“I’m not happy with my performance in the first half, but I think it’s going to turn around in a good way for me,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “The break and the All-Star Game is going to help me readjust and to think about what we can do in the second half.”
“You feel very happy after a game like (Friday) because you did what you have to do to help your team win a game.”
Over the first seven seasons of his career Ramirez averaged 2.7 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.
This season that figure stands at minus-1 WAR -- the worst in baseball.
Much of that can be attributed to his bat as Ramirez has a .226/.252/.295 slash line with 15 doubles, two home runs and 26 RBIs in 323plate appearances. Though the White Sox need Ramirez to hit to be successful, they could absorb some of those struggles as long his glove was near to what he has done in his career and that hasn’t happened.
Ramirez heads into Saturday’s game ranked 20th of 26 among shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved with minus-5 and 18th in Ultimate Zone Rating, with a minus-1.1 rating. Several misplays have cost the White Sox severely early in the season, specifically in Toronto and Tampa Bay.
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White Sox manager Robin Ventura, however, has seen improvement lately and called Friday one of the team’s best games of the past few seasons. Critical in the effort were two spectacular double plays turned by Ramirez, the first with a diving stop and flip to Carlos Sanchez to rob Starlin Castro in the second inning. Five innings later, Ramirez also retrieved Castro’s one-hopper headed for center, tagged the runner and fired to first for another double play.
“Any time you don’t catch it, it’s tough,” Ventura said. “Any time you look at it, it just doesn’t look right. I think concentration, everything else that goes with it, has to be there to play good defense. And right now he’s playing good defense.”
Ramirez missed Thursday’s game after he fouled a pitch off his left foot but feels good. He is aware his future is uncertain after this season as the White Sox hold a $10-million club option but said he tries not to worry about things he can’t control.
Which leads back to his play, something he has begun to feel better about. Ventura believes Ramirez, who has a .247 average on balls in play, is due for a bit of a market correction back toward his career mark of .291. But as long as he provides better defense, the White Sox are able to better absorb his offensive woes.
“The most important thing is we won like a team because the defense did what its supposed to do and that was very important,” Ramirez said. “I feel good because I was able to help the team to get that victory.”