Fast Company (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday May 1, 2007 11:23AM; Updated: Thursday May 3, 2007 5:14PM
"When he's at bat, infielders have to play shallower because he'll bunt or beat out most ground balls," explains Joe Girardi, the Yankees' TV analyst, who managed the Marlins' last season. "When he's on base he upsets pitchers' rhythms. You'll see them throw over more, hold the ball more, pitch out more, which can create bad counts for them. He might even cause a change in pitch selection. Pitchers will throw fewer breaking balls because they're afraid he'll steal."
Rockies righty Josh Fogg describes the psychological torment Reyes inflicts on pitchers when he's standing on first. "You've got to be cognizant of him," Fogg says, "but you can't let yourself get in such a funk that you make bad pitches to the next guy.... Him standing on second might not be the worst thing. I can see him a little better at second base at least."
There is one category in which Ramirez may have an advantage over Reyes -- of whom the Nationals' Bowden says, "He will eventually be a 30-home-run hitter." Says first-year Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, "It wouldn't surprise me one day if we pick up the paper and we see, well, Hanley hit 40." Ramirez, who has played in just 179 major league games, appears to have the largest gap between his already impressive present and his future -- especially if you consider the view of second-year Braves starter Chuck James, who is one of only four pitchers against whom Ramirez has had more than six at bats in his career without a hit.
James possesses clear-eyed strategies on how to face Reyes ("I don't try to nibble, because you don't want to walk him") and Rollins ("Every home run I've seen, he's pulled, so you almost have to go away from him"), but when it comes to Ramirez, he's got no game plan.
"This guy you're talking about, I can't even tell you what team he plays for," says James. "I don't remember ever facing him."
As Ramirez continues his progress through the upper echelon of major league shortstops, James, and the rest of baseball, will come to know his name as well as they do know Rollins's and Reyes's. And soon.