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Erasmo Ramirez And Catchers

a shame about the hitting
a shame about the hitting

Erasmo Ramirez has now started three Major League games for the Seattle Mariners. He also earlier threw some innings in relief, but we'll basically ignore those here because that was Ramirez pitching in an unfamiliar role. Ramirez's first two starts could be considered somewhat encouraging if you approach them from a statistical perspective and squint. Eight strikeouts, one unintentional walk. Lots of strikes, and a high BABIP! A high BABIP won't sustain! Ramirez was probably just getting bitten by bad luck! In those two starts, he allowed 11 runs in nine innings.

Ramirez's third start, last night, was unquestionably terrific. No squinting necessary, unless you squint just a little bit to make the Oakland Athletics look like a real opponent. Ten strikeouts, one unintentional walk. Lots of strikes, limited contact, one mistake that Ramirez paid for. Maybe this was or maybe this wasn't Erasmo Ramirez at his best, but it was definitely the best we'd ever seen him. He pitched like someone who isn't newly 22.

I spent about an hour this morning looking at release-point data and analyzing screenshots. Got me nowhere. Might down the road, but not today. I couldn't think of anything to say about Erasmo Ramirez's release point, but it all did convince me that I still wanted to write about Erasmo Ramirez, and here I'm writing about his pitch mix. Ramirez was different last night, and not just in terms of his results.

A quote from opposing manager and ex-catcher Bob Melvin, via Geoff Baker:

"We got limited scouting on him and video,'' Melvin said. "But you looked at some of his counts, how he pitched in previous games, and he pitched a lot differently. He seemed a little more predictable in last games -- behind in the count here was a heater. Ahead in the count, here's a breaking ball. And he pitched backwards today. (Miguel) Olivo did a terrific job with him too."

Maybe you think that Melvin, as an ex-catcher, might be eager to give credit to the Mariners' catcher. But it's interesting what happens when you look at the numbers. All this post essentially does is confirm what Melvin already said last night, so in that regard it's useless, but isn't all of this useless? Isn't all of this useless? Aren't all of us useless? As Patrick Leigh Fermor wrote in his romance The Violins of Saint-Jacques:

Eruptions and cataclysms and plagues and the colliding of planets were the only real, the only inevitable events, and the human activities that happened to lie in their path, and which are destroyed with such blind ease and ignorance were of as little real importance as the doings of insects...

Ramirez's first two starts, against the Padres and the Diamondbacks, were caught by Jesus Montero. His start last night was caught by Miguel Olivo. His start last night was the great one. Over those first two starts, Ramirez threw 73 percent fastballs. Last night, Ramirez threw 50 percent fastballs. Over those first two starts, 82 percent of Ramirez's first pitches were fastballs. Last night, 38 percent (10 of 26) of Ramirez's first pitches were fastballs. The broadcast made note of this at the time, and Melvin made note of it later, but those are stark differences, and one can't ignore the differences in results.

We can't prove that Ramirez was more successful last night because of his pitch mix. It just follows as logical. He was probably also better because his location was sharper, and maybe his stuff felt sharper, but pitch mix is important, and Ramirez's pitch mix changed as his catcher changed. It seems to me that Miguel Olivo probably deserves a fair bit of credit.

I'm not saying that Olivo is a good game-caller and that Montero is a bad game-caller or anything, but this example is curious, and I'm content to just explain it as Olivo having a better grasp of things. Now, ultimately, it's up to the pitcher to decide what he's going to throw, but it's the catcher sending signals, and pitchers like to follow that instruction. Ramirez wasn't making a habit of shaking Olivo off, and why would he? The signals Olivo was sending were working.

Jesus Montero will learn more about calling a game. It's one of a young catcher's several responsibilities, and he's a very young catcher. He's got a lot of things on his plate. Erasmo Ramirez will learn more about pitching a game against Major League competition, as he's not that distant from his debut. If Ramirez sticks around, it'll be because he's learned. Maybe last night was a valuable learning experience, and maybe for that we have Miguel Olivo to thank. I can't say anything for sure, but if I only wrote about that of which I were sure, I'd only write about how Mariners/A's games are just the literal worst. Literally, the very worst.