Wilson Ramos is not performing like the elite, free-agent catcher that sought a long-term deal this past winter. This could be why, after spending several weeks seeking a four-year deal, Ramos settled for two years and $19 million from the Mets.
The acquisition of Ramos was interpreted as Van Wagenen getting his third choice. If you recall, he had reportedly been chasing the Marlins around for J.T. Realmuto, who was eventually traded to the Phillies. And, according to Yasmani Grandal, before he signed his current deal with the Brewers, he rejected a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets.
In between Realmuto going to Philadelphia and Grandal going to the Brewers, Van Wagenen signed Ramos, who said the Mets were always his first choice.
To be fair, at least Ramos is playing.
I realize this is a low expectation for success. However, given the revolving door behind home plate for the Mets the past decade, it was quite an accomplishment to have the same person start at catcher 20 out of the team's first 27 games. Unfortunately, he's produced less than replacement level with a negative WAR total that is among the worst for qualifying catchers in the National League.
The thing is, Ramos is hitting the ball hard. In fact, he's hitting it as hard as he has in the past. The problem is that he's mostly hitting line drives and ground balls.
For instance, of the balls he has put in play this season, only 15 percent have been in the air. The rest are all line drives and ground balls, which, of course, makes it impossible to hit a home run or -- at the very least -- get an extra base hit on a ball in the gap.
He has historically hit the ball mostly on the ground, which, given the demands of being a catcher, made for an inevitable clash between his age, health, strength and his home run-to-fly ball rate.
It appears that exact battle is on in full effect... and his power is losing.
Entering this season, projection systems put him hitting around .260 in 80 or so games with 12 home runs and a 1.2 WAR, which had him ranked in the top 2-3 catchers in the National League.
This is still a realistic outcome, but only if he hits three to four home runs each month through the remainder of this season. This would be a similar rate to what he did during the first half of last season, as well as the majority of his career. However, his current struggle is not new. Ramos hit just one home run during his final 36 games in 2018, 33 of which were played for the Phillies, who traded for him in late July. He did, however, hit .350 in those same 36 games, while ripping 11 doubles with 19 RBI.
He also had an eye-popping .459 batting average on balls in play, which brings us back to this season and how he's hitting the ball hard and right at people.
He's actually striking out less and walking more than he did last season when compared to his overall career. He's currently seeing a similar diet of pitches than he has in the past, as well. The only major difference that I see is he's swinging at more balls in the strike zone, on which he's making less contact, but it's not enough to create such a drastic gap in results from one season to the next.
In the end, Ramos just needs to get more balls in the air and with more authority (like he did during the first half of 2018) or start hitting the ball where people are not standing (like he did at an unworldly rate during the second half of 2018). Or, find success some place in the middle, which would be exactly the catcher he was projected to be in 2019 and the guy Van Wagenen likely hoped he was getting when handing over a two-year deal.
I'm thankful Ramos is healthy and playing nearly every day. This is a welcomed change from what the pitching staff has been sued to since Paul Lo Duca left in 2007. However, if he isn't hitting or -- at the very least -- getting lucky when he does hit, and if the pitching staff continues to struggle, playing every day will be a detriment more than it is a benefit...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!