Is defense among the problems for the Boston Red Sox this year? Statistically, they aren’t especially bad, even via advanced metrics — until you get to left field.
As detailed by Alex Speier in the Boston Globe, Hanley Ramirez is not just subpar as a left fielder, he also has made the position “into an area of historic defensive weakness. … Hanley Ramirez is the worst defensive player in baseball — and it’s not even close.”
According to Defensive Wins Above Replacement, Ramirez has a -1.4, meaning he is costing the Red Sox about 1½ wins compared with an average major-league left fielder. That is the worst number in the big leagues. Ramirez is on a pace for -4.4 for the season, which would be the second-worst dWAR ever recorded by Baseball-Reference.com, behind Adam Dunn’s -5.2 at first base and the outfield for the Washington Nationals in 2009.
Speier describes Ramirez as playing “as though he’s trying to decide whether to run over hot coals when chasing fly balls that drop in front of him,” but raises the hope that Ramirez can improve as he continues to work at learning to play the position. Before this year, Ramirez had played 1,077 games at shortstop and 98 at third base in the majors, but none in the outfield.
Failing that, the Red Sox may have to explore ways to work him in at third (displacing Pablo Sandoval), first (Mike Napoli) or designated hitter (David Ortiz).
Meanwhile, at the plate, Ramirez does have 12 homers so far, but his .311 on-base percentage is on track to be a career low.