Sans Prince Fielder, the Brewers will to struggle to stay among the National League's top five clubs in run scoring (and that's to say nothing of Ryan Braun's possible 50-game suspension for a failed PED test). Bringing in Aramis Ramirez on a three-year deal reportedly worth $36 million won't compensate, but A-Ram is at least a sizeable upgrade over what Milwaukee got from its third basemen in 2010 (which is to say, nothing).
In 2011, Brewers third basemen -- primarily now-Pirate Casey McGehee -- batted .231/.290/.345 and had a .279 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA). Ramirez, meanwhile, is coming off a resurgent season during which he hit .306/.361/.510, with a .371 wOBA. A-Ram struggled with injuries and bad luck in balls put in play in 2010, slashing just .241/.294/.452 with a .245 BABIP while battling thumb and triceps ailments. With better health and bat control this past year, Ramirez made more contact on inside pitches and did a better job covering the outer third as well. Check out his contact rate by pitch location in 2010 and 2011:
Ramirez's missed 23 percent of the pitches he swung at in 2010, but that fell to 18 percent in 2011. Consequently, his strikeout rate dipped from 17.8% to 11%. His BABIP bumped back up to .308, due mostly to more hits on inside pitches and those straddling the outside corner of the plate:
Ramirez is an aggressive hitter who has never walked much, he's 33 years old and he's one of the worst defensive third basemen in the game, having cost his club 19 runs over the past three years according to Ultimate Zone Rating. But he's still serious power threat who will be much better than McGehee was in 2011 and is projected to be in 2012 (a .313 wOBA, according to The Hardball Times' Oliver). Ramirez joins a revamped Brew Crew infield with just one incumbent starter in Rickie Weeks. How does the new-look infield compare offensively to last year's version? Here's a look at last year's starters, and 2012 Oliver projections for Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Weeks and Mat Gamel:
Gamel, 27, is coming off a .310/.372/.540 season at Triple-A Nashville, but he's obviously no Fielder. Over the course of a full season, the offensive difference between what Fielder did last year and what Gamel is forecast to hit is a staggering 45 runs. However, upgrading from McGehee '11 to A-Ram in '12 is projected to be about a 35 run improvement. In other words, they lose 10 runs, or about a win, in offensive value compared to 2011. Of course, losing Braun for nearly a third of the season could easily cost the Brewers another 1-2 wins on offense.
Ramirez probably shouldn't be playing third base these days and his bat doesn't make up for Fielder's departure. That said, he gives them another quality hitter to at least partially ease the loss and make another run at the NL Central title before Zack Greinke hits the open market. It's hardly a coup, but it's a decent short-term solution for a team whose window of contention may soon close.