Lames: Not so manly Hanley pushing owners to brink

Brad Evans


Fantasyland is a prescription drug society. The emotional rollercoaster owners experience over the course of the season has made millions chemically dependent. Liquid therapy is the most common mood stabilizer, but sometimes more powerful substances must be swallowed to relieve depressive symptoms.

Right now, pharmacies throughout the baseball-crazed community can't keep Xanax in stock. Anxiety over Hanley Ramirez's slow start has reached an epidemic level.

Mortified supporters of the top-ranked shortstop are about to snap. Their hair-pulling attitude is understandable. Investors shelled out fat stacks of cash to acquire the Marlin's services — 56 large to be exact — steadfastly believing another lucrative campaign was not only possible, but expected. Some esteemed experts even implored the masses to strongly consider drafting Han-Ram over consistency king Albert Pujols.

However, nearing the quarter-pole of the season, whimsical thoughts of high profits have been replaced with flimsy hopes of breaking even. Ranked an unacceptable 257th overall and outside the top-20 at a razor-thin position — two spots behind future MLB 2K coverboy Angel Sanchez — the exorbitant commodity has shattered owner confidence. To the encumbered, every 0-fer feels like a bat jab to the backside, an image Gloria Allred, if hired, would proudly demonstrate.

Maybe Ramirez owners should file a class-action lawsuit for false advertising. Though at some point he'll likely undergo some sort of resurgence, several disturbing trends suggest he could continue to have backers seeing red. {YSP:MORE}

For starters, the 27-year-old has whiffed or weakly flailed at pitches he's historically crushed. According to his Fangraphs pitch value chart, he's garnered a negative return versus fastballs, an offering he was second among shortstops against last year. Additionally, his slight increase in strikeout percentage ('10: 17.1, '11: 17.8) and worrisome rise in groundballs (51.0, 58.5) verify his complete dissolution at the dish. No amount of batting practice, film dissection, mental rest or hometown "Boo!" motivation has turned the tide completely.

From the slumping slugger's perspective, an itchy trigger finger on pitches off the plate best explains the dramatic downturn. Per the Palm Beach Post:

"I'm just chasing bad pitches, maybe 2 or 3 inches off the plate," Ramirez said. "I've got to see it better concentration and slow things down. I'm rushing too much, trying to hit every pitch. You have to be patient and wait for mistakes."

Fantasy owners, too, should exercise patience — to a degree. Considering the All-Star's shrunken price tag, it would be unwise to shop him in a depressed market. This week he was dealt for Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez and Lance Berkman in one-for-one industry deals. Keep in mind he's still walking at an above average rate and his abnormal 12.3 line-drive percentage should inevitably rebound closer to his career mean (18.3), though normalization is not guaranteed. Eventually, numbers will come, but probably not enough to justify a top-10 or maybe even a top-30 finish.

Once Ramirez heats up, dealing him to an overzealous opponent isn't an absurd idea. On pace for a .217-9-63-85-36 campaign, he would have to tally a .323-19-62-74-24 line to simply match last year's injury-shortened output. Unless the maple bats he recently dusted off from 2009, the year he won the NL batting title, possess some sort of residual magic, a final 2011 mark below .300 with 15-18 homers appears more likely. If Logan Morrison, who will be activated Friday, forces Edwin Rodriguez to demote Hanley from third to fifth in the order, his run production could also fail to measure up. Wednesday's 2-for-4, 1 HR game was definitely encouraging, but he still has a steep climb ahead. Seemingly inconceivable roughly 40 days ago, Han-Ram could finish far behind SS pacesetters Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki come October.

If that happens, no miracle drug will be able to cure Han-Ram owners' ill-will.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 464 at-bats, .286 BA,16 HR, 57 RBI, 61 R, 27 SB

As a Ramirez owner, when will you press the panic button? How concerned are you? What's your rest of the season forecast? Will the Big Noise Bump revive yet another seemingly deceased bat? Discuss in the comments section below.

Other passengers riding southbound (or about to) on the Lames train …

Justin Morneau, Min, 1B — With the same number of homers as pitcher Travis Wood (one) and RBIs as the legendary Luis Rodriguez, Morblow has certainly stained rosters with one unpromising performance after another. Routinely overpowered, he's had difficulty making consistent, hard contact against fastballs, a result of his ongoing struggle to shake lingering symptoms from last season's concussion. More concerning, he's also sliced his walks percentage in half ('10: 14.4, '11: 7.4). As he disclosed last week, synapses simply aren't firing at the rapid pace needed to excel as a hitter. Complicating matters, he dropped 10 pounds after catching the nasty virus that infected the Twins clubhouse a couple weeks ago. Frail, weak and constantly tired, Morneau has battled through the mental and physical fatigue with marginal results. If Joe Mauer and Delmon Young were healthy and producing, Ron Gardenhire would've removed the downtrodden first baseman from the cleanup spot weeks ago, but given the situation, he will likely remain a fixture there. Because of the residual fog he's still experiencing, it's possible Morneau may not regain his pre-concussed form until after the break. Unless owners in shallow mixers have adequate bench space, outright dropping the former AL MVP for Justin Smoak (53 percent owned), Carlos Pena (48 percent), Eric Hosmer (41 percent) or Mitch Moreland (33 percent) isn't asinine. Deep leaguers, meanwhile, should force him to the pine until he shows signs of life.

Alexi Ogando, Tex, SP/RP — Analyzing Ogando's slide under a microscope, the converted reliever is a classic sell high candidate. On the surface, the 26-year-old has been outstanding, winning three of his first six turns, posting a 2.17 ERA, tidy 0.88 WHIP and 6.51 K/9. But looking past the superficial data, several signs point to a stomach-churning collapse. His high strand rate (93.1 LOB%), long-ball vulnerability (1.21 HR/9) and general good fortune (.188 BABIP, 4.00 xFIP) arrow to a major ERA correction. Equally sickening, his fly-ball centric batted ball profile (0.64 GB/FB) indicates once the mercury climbs in Arlington the youngster will become increasingly susceptible to gopheritis. Yes his position flexibility is luxurious, but in a game characterized by maximizing profit/minimizing loss, now is the ideal time to shop the heavily owned starter. This week in one-for-one industry deals, Alexi was swapped for Shin-Soo Choo, Sergio Santos, Gaby Sanchez and Alex Rios.

Jose Tabata, Pit, OF — Tabata, undoubtedly an unsellable cornerstone on Michael Bolton's fantasy team, has traveled on stranger tides after breaking out over the first three weeks of the season. Mired in a 4-for-39 slide, he's knocked in just one run and hasn't recorded a multi-hit game since April 23. After notching a respectable .277 BA in the leadoff spot, Tabata has fallen on his sword batting second, collecting just 13 hits in 66 at-bats (.197 BA). Fully aware of his discomfort in the two-hole, Clint Hurdle is toying with the idea of moving the outfielder down in the order. Given a day off on Wednesday to clear his head and log additional cage time with hitting coach Greg Little, it will be interesting to see where Hurdle ultimately slots the slumping Bucco. No matter where he bats, Tabata's peripheral numbers imply the slide shouldn't continue much longer. His sharpened eye (12.6 BB%), groundball-heavy profile (2.00 GB/FB), commendable contact rate (84.2) and success against fastballs lend a positive outlook. Despite the recent drop-off, he's still very capable of finishing in the neighborhood of .285-10-55-85-35. Over the past week, he was dealt for Derek Lowe, Leo Nunez and Brett Gardner in one-for-one industry moves. Fleece a worried owner.

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