Manny Ramirez: Baseball's Best Active Hitter

June 01, 2008

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Street Reporter

Manny Ramirez: Baseball's Best Active Hitter

For you Yankee fans out there, I'm going to commit the ultimate fan heresy and argue against ARod, and in favor of Boston's Manny Ramirez, as the greatest hitter in the game today. He doesn't have anywhere near the defensive value that ARod does, and he's more of a clubhouse canker (I won't say "cancer" as he's more annoying than destructive) but he gets my nod for a consistently good eye, consistent power, and postseason performance. 

Manny's career offensive numbers are better than ARod's in almost every department, even though he's been in the league only one more year than ARod. For the record, Manny sports a .312/.408/.590 line, with 500 HRs, 484 2Bs, and 1639 RBIs. ARod's line is still awesome, but lower: .306/.388/.578, with 525 HRs, 406 2Bs, and 1524 RBIs. Let's be clear: either one of these guys could spontaneously combust right now and still make the HOF on their first ballot. These are amazing numbers for their careers, and both should add on to them in the near future. Albert Pujols has some pretty eye-popping statistics, better than Manny, but he's only been doing this Superman act for half as long.

Manny's a model of consistency, with five straight years of .300/.400/.500 hitting (ARod's never done that even twice in a row). Four of those years were consecutive .300/.400/.600 seasons, the year at the end of both strings was 2004's "subpar" .308/.397/.613, missing the required .400 OBP by a measly 3 points. His 20-HR season of 2007 snapped a string of nine straight 30+ HR, 100+ RBI seasons, and (leaping over his 26-HR, 88 RBI 1997 season) he did it in 11 of 12 seasons.

ARod's done that 30/100 trick in 10 straight and 11 of 12, but without the peaks Manny's had. Ramirez's 165 RBI season in 1999 was the best since Jimmie Foxx's 175 in 1938, and he's had other seasons of 145 and 144, while ARod's three best RBI seasons are 156, 142, and 135. Manny's slugging peaks are .697, .663 and .647, while ARod peaks at .645, .631 and .623. ARod makes up for this deficit somewhat with 50-HR seasons; he's got three to Manny's zero.

One notable difference, as any Yankees fan will tell you, is postseason results. Manny's hit .269/.376/.513, his 59 walks versus 81 strikeouts (an eye of .73) in 353 ABs showing he's happy to take a pass rather than lunge out of the zone for something he can't hit (just as he does in the regular season). Manny's 12-7 in his postseason series, with 2 rings in 4 World Series appearances.

ARod has gone .279/.361/.483, respectable postseasons for any other player not named "ARod" or "Manny." His  17 walks and 38 strikeouts (an eye of .45) in 147 ABs shows how much more he presses in those situations, trying to get a hit when he should be content with a walk. And, most importantly, he's 3-7 in the postseason without a single AB in The Big Show, let alone a ring.

What do all these numbers mean? It means ARod hits more homers, but Manny beats him in virtually every other category, from doubles and RBIs to on-base percentage and slugging, showing he's a more patient hitter who hits more consistently for power. It's true that things like RBIs and postseason appearances are a reflection of the team that's around you, and ARod had those seasons with the Strangers (only three) and the Mariners (with Griffey, remember). And there's something to be said for a player who makes his team better, and Manny's certainly done that, say what you will about his off-field antics and juvenile demands for raises and trades.

It's quite likely that ARod and Pujols will, at their current paces, eclipse some or all of Manny's numbers, and his 500 HRs seem somehow meek when compared to Griffey's almost-600 and ARod's 525. But hitting's about more than just home runs, and Manny's hit, and hit for power, longer and more consistently than anyone in the game today.

He seems to think of his glove as a cute fashion accessory sometimes, and would likely be the DH in a team without Ortiz, but I haven't heard of him in connection to any steroid scandal (nor has he seemed to grow any beefier than he's always been) and he's my vote for the best hitter in the game today, and one of the best right-handed hitters of all time.

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