Red Sox Success Hinges on Performance of Ramirez and Sandoval

by Mark Gallant | Posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
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Rewind to a year ago. Red Sox fans were cautiously optimistic on how their two big free agent signings would perform in Boston. Hanley Ramirez had tacked on so much bulk mass that he was starting to look like Mac in season 7 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, hoping for some added power to bring to Fenway Park. Pablo Sandoval‘s body was always the main concern of his naysayers, and it didn’t appear that he had worked on it leading up to spring training.

As we look forward to the 2016 season, Red Sox Nation is rightfully afraid about what Ramirez and Sandoval are going to bring to the table. There were 636 position players with an at-bat last season and Ramirez and Sandoval were ranked 634th and 635th in fWAR, respectively, at -1.8 and -2.0. Essentially, playing two replacement players over those two would have resulted in about four more wins, hypothetically speaking, of course.

Since the front office is shelling out about $40 million each season to the pair, it should come as no surprise that they told the two players to get in shape. According to John Farrell, both have complied, which wasn’t a guarantee. Ramirez is down “quite a bit” from his 2015 weight, currently checking in at around 235. Granted that is still a lot more than the former 50 base stealer used to weigh, but it should be able to work for him playing at first base.

Sandoval is reportedly down 20 pounds, too. We can’t put a number on it, but there were talks of him putting on a decent amount of weight during the 2015 season. Yet, they were shot down at the time. Yet, at some point , the Red Sox had to have acknowledged the possibility that his weight could be negatively impacting his play because they’re having him shape up for the 2016 campaign. Maybe Sandoval realized it himself, as he began to physically break down towards the end of last season.

Although we probably can’t expect to see these two turn back the clock to their primes, we should expect to see replacement level seasons at the bare minimum. The three seasons prior to 2015, Ramirez posted fWARs of 2.6, 5.1, and 3.3. Sandoval was a little more consistent, with fWARs of 2.6, 3.0, and 2.1.

With David Price at the top of the rotation, an elite closer in Craig Kimbrel, and added bullpen depth, Dave Dombrowski and the front office have already put some major pieces into place to help this team win in 2016. No major additions were made to the lineup, but that is because there should be plenty of wins added just from Ramirez and Sandoval playing up to their past track records. If they combine for a 4.0 fWAR, that is eight wins better than what they provided (or took away) in 2015. Those numbers should be a result of better hitting, which will help take pressure off of David Ortiz in his last season, better fielding, which will help cancel out some of the bad luck Red Sox pitchers had last year, and hopefully better baserunning, too.

Hanley Ramirez was once a 7.5 win player. Pablo Sandoval was once a 5.3 win player. The Red Sox are paying them a lot of money, but they aren’t asking them to be the 5+ win players they used to be. For the Red Sox to be a playoff team, they just need Ramirez and Sandoval to contribute and be positive influences in the clubhouse. If they do that this season, the Red Sox should be in great shape.

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Mark Gallant
About the Author

Mark has contributed to isportsweb, the Yawkey Way Report, Fansided's Chowder and Champions, and The Hockey Writers. He is also the host of the weekly radio show Top Shelf Sports on Bryant University's WJMF radio. Follow him on Twitter @TopShelfSports5

  • Crusader10

    While I agree, the play of these two can be either a plus or a minus, depending on how they play, I think that 1.) pitching will be the key to the season, and 2.) The Sox have options should either or both of these players fail again. Travis Shaw and Sam Travis could take the corner infield positions should that be needed. There are also Brock Holt and Devin Marerro to play third and give good defense. On the other hand, if either or both players (Sandoval and Ramirez) have significant bounce backs, then the Sox will do well.

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  • hawkny1

    A month or so ago i read that Sandoval lost 20 lbs. and Ramirez lost 4 lbs. during the 2015 off season. Hanley may have replaced fat with muscle, we’ll see. A big turn around by both these players is essential for the Red Sox to climb out of the cellar into 1st place by season’s end in 2016. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not looking closely at the offensive strength of the team’s roster. Both have the ability to be .300+ hitters with 20 or more home runs. We should expect nothing less considering the salary they receive. The Sox need that type of hitting in the 5-6-7 slots to do well.

    • redsoxu571

      If you have multiple .300+/20 HR hitters in your 5th and 6th slots, you’re probably doing a lot better than “well”, especially in today’s baseball.

  • Deke

    Sandoval only lost 20 pounds? I suspect they are lowballing us so that when he comes to camp in even better shape everyone will be marveled. If it is only 20 pounds I will bet that by the end of the season that 20 pounds and then some will be put back on. Sandoval has shown ZERO propensity for keeping himself in shape. I’m not a highly paid athlete, with the ability to hire my brother as a personal chef and weight coaches. I lost 38 pounds in 2 months and I was nowhere the size of that guy. I believe Sandoval could lose plenty if he really tried but he’s got his money and he doesn’t give a crap. He’s always been a selfish player and always will be.

  • James Berry

    The Red Sox may be the team that could finish 1st in their division just as easily as finishing 5th. While Sandoval & Ramirez both could be keys to going either direction, there are still question marks with the rotation and outfield. Just as with every team, health is the biggest key. They need a healthy bounce back from Pedroia and the catching needs to be a strong point. Castillo needs to produce and Bradley needs to finally have a full break out season.

    • redsoxu571

      That’s not quite true. The team was in third place with as few as three games left in the season, and won 78 games, so it was hardly a 5th place team in the first place.

      Adding Price and multiple bullpen options without subtracting anyone, plus the team’s new core of Betts/Bogaerts/Swihart (all of whom were MUCH better later in the season than earlier) are set to make the team quite a bit better, even if Sandoval and Ramirez don’t rebound at all. The OF defense (that helped the team be quite good the last month and a half or so) from later in the season will also be back, and that should be a steady force.

      So you might say 3rd place is as likely as 1st place, which would be pretty fair, but it’s tough to see anything worst than that, unless the entire division is good and creates an 80 win floor.

      • James Berry

        I neither said they finished 5th or 1st. I said they could be. I also said, and it holds true, that if health is a major factor and certain players don’t rebound, they could be either or.

        There was no insulting of the Sox. Just an observation.

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