Alexei Ramirez - ChiCitySports2012 ZiPS Projection: .274/.321/.412, 17 HR, 72 RBI, .319 wOBA

2012 Bill James Projection: .276/.329/.414, 17 HR, 82 RBI, .324 wOBA

2012 Actual Statistics: .265/.287/.364, 9 HR, 73 RBI, .284 wOBA

Alexei Ramirez’ 2012 season is not without its positives but may be the most telling (and not in a good way) for Ramirez’ long-term future as shortstop for the Chicago White Sox.

On the positive end, Ramirez continues to be an elite defender at a premium defensive position. His UZR/150 took a slight dive down to 5.9, but more play-by-play based metrics like Defensive Runs Saved show Ramirez is still top-tier (14).

This solid defense was a key to the White Sox drive to the playoffs in a year when the team was expected to rebuild.

Sadly, this is where the positives end for Ramirez. His offensive regression continued at an unhealthy pace. For the first time in his career Ramirez’ OBP fell below .300, frankly inexcusable for a starting shortstop in the Major Leagues, no matter how great their defense.

Ramirez was never one to take a walk but his career-low 2.6 BB% and stunningly low 0.21 BB/K show a real troubling trend. What was once considered free-swinging has quickly become a total disregard towards plate discipline. Casual watchers of the White Sox can attest to Ramirez’ inability to adjust mid at-bat leaving 0-2 and 2-0 counts looking disturbingly similar.

White Sox fans could almost live with Alexei’s free swinging ways when he was hitting for above average power but nearly all that power has faded away as evidenced by Ramirez’ pedestrian nine home runs.

Ramirez’ .364 slugging percentage was the worst of his career and is a largely unacceptable percentage, especially combined with Ramirez’ poor on-base ability. Ramirez’ days of the double-digit homers appear to be over, which obviously hurts his ability to contribute in anyway offensively to the White Sox.

The lack of power from Ramirez appears to be a result of slower bat speed, likely due to age (32). While his Line Drive and Fly Ball percentages are right in line with his career, his 5.1 percent HR/FB is a career low and nearly half of his total from last year (8.1 percent).

Interestingly enough, pitchers have begun throwing Ramirez 10 percent more fastballs speaking to my theory of reduced bat speed. Pitchers are clearly more comfortable challenging Ramirez than ever before in his career.

After back to back 4 WAR seasons, Ramirez’ defensive prowess saved the 32-year old shortstop from a below replacement level 2012. That number still put him fifth among White Sox offensive players, but you worry once his defense regresses, how his then-negative value will affect the Sox. If his defense regresses, he simply will not be a major league caliber player.

Follow the author on Twitter: @richkraetsch

Photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

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