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Ramos, Strasburg make magic vs. Phillies

Aug 12, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT

Photo by the Associated Press
In the Nationals’ 6-0 win over the Phillies on Sunday, all eyes were on Stephen Strasburg as he put in the best pitching performance of his career. He tossed a complete game shutout with ten strikeouts, needing just 99 pitches in a display of pure efficiency.
In admiring the outing, however, don’t overlook the role of catcher Wilson Ramos. The 26-year-old backstop has a way of staying behind the scenes, soft-spoken yet intense in a locker room full of personalities. The fact he was behind the plate for this particular game is likely no coincidence. 
After the game Ramos gave much of the credit to Strasburg and his teammates – including Ryan Zimmerman’s defense – for culminating the shutout. But he did concede he takes some pride in calling a game so brilliant.
I was excited,” he said. “That’s what I want to do every day when I’m behind the plate, put zeroes up on the scoreboard. That’s my job.”
If Ramos was, in fact, just doing his “job,” he may be getting a lot better at it. We profiled Ramos back in April and showed how nearly everyone in the Nats’ pitching staff has fared better with Ramos behind the plate than another catcher. The numbers were consistent and striking, and since they’ve become even more extreme.

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  1. terpman33 - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    Yesterday's game was arguably their most impressive win of the season. They were damn near perfect in every facet of the game. I really feel a deep run coming, maybe 10 of 12, something like that. Either way, im here rooting till the very end. GYFNG!

  2. Don - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    Suzuki got the bad Haren and Ramos the better Haren, mostly post DL stint, this might be more correlation than causation.

  3. The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    Chase, I seriously doubt that the switch from Suzuki to Ramos at catcher has anything at all to do with why Haren is pitching better now than he did earlier this season.

  4. Section 222 - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    I strongly agree with Feel. Ramos should get lots of praise for yesterday. But to ascribe any the pitchers' successes or failures to who is behind the plate is a real misuse of the stats.

  5. bowdenball - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    I don't think it explains the stark difference in Haren's numbers, but there's no question that catchers play some role in pitching performance. You can debate whether they play in coaxing better performance out of the guy on the mound with pitch calls and mound visits and whatnot. But there's no question that they frame pitches, stop balls in the dirt from becoming wild pitches, hold and throw out runners, and so on. Given the comparative numbers from this and past seasons it seems logical to think that Ramos' presence played SOME role in Haren's improvement, although how big a role is certainly debatable.

  6. Don - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    Calling a good game and being a good reciever, framing pitches, throwing out baserunners, etc. is all very valuable stuff, but the ERA for a club when a certain C is playing is very likely not a meaningful stat to select to gauge the value of a particular C to preventing earned runs.

  7. bowdenball - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    Don-Over one season I agree, the sample size is probably too small. But if the pattern repeats over multiple seasons I think there may be something to it. How much, I don't know, but something.

  8. Tcostant - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    If Ramos could just catch a throw from an OF or cut-off man, his ERA would be even lower. I'm still amazed how poor he is at that…

  9. David Proctor - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    I'm gong to copy and paste a comment from another site because I thought it was worth repeating here:"Well, the Nats have the tiebreaker, having taken the season series with the Reds 4-3. So technically Cincinnati could go 22-23 the rest of the way and the Nats would pass them by going 30-15. Interestingly, the Nationals also hold a 2-1 season series lead over the Diamondbacks, with three games to play. The last three games of the regular season for the Nationals are in Arizona, which could be very important. To get to the same 87 win mark the Diamondbacks would need to go 28-18. Probably about the same odds as the Nationals getting to 87 wins, given Arizona’s remaining schedule. Their next couple of weeks will be critical for them, as their next ten games are three versus the Orioles, three versus the Pirates and four versus the Reds.Suffice it to say that the Reds are in the driver’s seat for the second wild card. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. The Nats are eight games back, in third place for the second wild card with 45 games to play. In 2011 the Cardinals were 10.5 games back, in third place for the wild card with just 32 games to play. They were given a 1.3% chance of making the playoffs, and most of that was to catch the Brewers for the NL Central (they were only 10 games behind the Brewers, and had more head-to-head games against them). The Braves were 25 games over .500, one day off of a six game winning streak that moved them 26 games over .500. Despite a lot of pundits and fans shoveling dirt exactly the same way you just did, the Cardinals ran down the Braves anyway, made the playoffs, and did all right once they got there.I don’t really see Cincinnati going 22-23 down the stretch, but that’s a lot more likely than the 2011 Braves going 11-22 down the stretch. I’m not looking for anything more in the short term than some good baseball and some Curly W’s. If someone leaves the door open, like the Braves (and the Giants) did in 2011, I’m OK with the Nationals sprinting through without a look back. Let’s just see what happens."

  10. Faraz Shaikh - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    I am surprised Y Molina does not feature on that list of 'best defensive backstops'. I agree that Haren's return from DL coincides with Ramos's but it cannot be all coincidence.

  11. Faraz Shaikh - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    nice comment there, David.

  12. David Proctor - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    Basically, we need to win 2 out of every 3 games from here on out to be in the conversation. 2/3 would give us exactly 30 wins and put us at 87-75. Whether or not we get in at that point will depend on luck.

  13. David Proctor - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    MLB Network earlier was pondering the idea of Mike Scoscia to the Nats, if he were to get fired.

  14. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    There's two great reasons for the Nats to make a serious run at the second wild card:1. It would be loads of fun watching them run down the Cards (especially after Game 5), the D-Backs and Reds.2. But maybe more importantly, it would set the stage for a strong start to 2014 under new manager Bo Porter.Am I the only one wishing Rizzo to package Storen, Danny and Bernie to the 'Stros for the rights to Bring Back Bo?

  15. David Proctor - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    Trading Storen and Danny for a manager…no thanks.

  16. John C. - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    I like that comment posted by David Proctor. Not surprising, since I wrote it. But if he's going to bring the comment over here, I feel obligated to correct it. Ties are broken not by head-to-head record, but by play in games. So a team might have to play a winner-take-all for the right to play another winner-take-all game for the Wild Card psot in the divisional round. In fact, if four or more teams tie, then there may be two games just to get to the "play-in" game. That would be kinda crazy …http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Baseball_tie-breaking_procedures

  17. John C. - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    And to be clear, I'm not calling "David Prcotor" out; he didn't claim he wrote the comment, he clearly stated that he thought it interesting and cross-posted it. I'm just posting to correct my own mistake :)

  18. Unknown - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Nice article, Chase! Since 2011 I have felt that Wilson Ramos just may be the Nats most important player. He, with good health, can become one of the NL's top backstops.

  19. John C. - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    And to give credit where credit is due, the comment was originally posted on Federal Baseball.You may now return to your normal comment thread :)

  20. TexNat - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    Mark/Chase: any word on whether the Nats are going to be players in the Abreu sweepstakes?

  21. John C. - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    Whatever the merits of Ramos as a receiver, be they correlation or causation, you can't deny the merits of having his bat in the lineup. Having a catcher with an OPS+ of 122 (Ramos) versus an OPS+ of 62 (Suzuki) in the lineup will make a HUGE difference to the pitching staff!

  22. Candide - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    Hell, the way Stras was pitching yesterday, I could have been behind the plate and we woulda still won.

  23. SonnyG10 - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    Candide said…Hell, the way Stras was pitching yesterday, I could have been behind the plate and we woulda still won.August 12, 2013 6:30 PMYea, but we would have all been bored watching you go back and retrieve all those passed balls. :)

  24. David Proctor - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    Has anyone here talked about Jose Abreu? I may have missed that discussion. It's an interesting prospect for the Nats, I think. I think they'd be very interested in adding a nice power hitting 1B like that, but they can't invest that type of money into it unless they're positive Ryan Zimmerman can hold down 3B. It would be risky.

  25. David Proctor - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    Plus, Rizzo hasn't shown much inclination to go after international superstars, that I remember at least.

  26. TexNat - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    Yes, I think that would be the key question, DP. You have to trust that Zim can hold down 3B for the entirety of the contract that you give to Abreu. So that is another layer of risk on top of the risk of paying a lot for a player with no track record.But still, if he is as good as some say, you don't often get a chance to sign a player like that for $15 million a year or less. He would cost Cano money. So there is some upside.I think that the Nats played a little on Cepedes, but I can't remember.

  27. David Proctor - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    Google shows that the Nationals were indeed in on Cespedes. It's not clear how far their interest went, but they brought him in for a workout and seemed to be high on him. I don't remember that all.

  28. Candide - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    SonnyG10 said… Yea, but we would have all been bored watching you go back and retrieve all those passed balls. :)Nahhh… I probably woulda caught a 97 mph fastball in the family jewels sometime in the first inning and it woulda been all over.

  29. NatsFam - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    So, Candide, technically, the balls would not have been passed…

  30. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    Just wonderin' @ 6:26 p.m.,Love the idea of the Nats adding a knuckleballer to the rotation. Throw out the notion of who's #2 and have it go something like Strasburg-knuckleballer-Zimmermann-Gonzalez and see how hitters adapt to switching back and forth between heat and soft uncertainty. Or you could put him at #5 and have it go Detwiller-knuckleballer-Strasburg. Assuming you get the good knuckleballer, of course, and not one of the 8.xx ERA variety. There's the rub, I guess. Oh well, off to see an A ball game soon.

  31. Candide - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    NatsFam said… So, Candide, technically, the balls would not have been passed…Carpenter: "Wow, he really CRUSHED that ball!"Ow.

  32. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    Section 222 said… Ramos should get lots of praise for yesterday. But to ascribe any the pitchers' successes or failures to who is behind the plate is a real misuse of the stats. August 12, 2013 4:28 PM The Haren phenomona is skewed by that poor stretch he had before going on the DL so the disparity isn't totally relevant.I've long said the pitchers love Ramos play calling. He gets a great read on the batters and he is a big target. His apprenticeship with Pudge was invaluable.Ramos is far from perfect but the successes are hard to not consider the overall disparity as it's a large divide. Rizzo and Davey and Cat had a choice between Zuk and Ramos and they are riding Ramos the rest of the way.The most interesting stat is the Nats are 22-14 in games where Ramos plays the entire game this season.

  33. David Proctor - Aug 13, 2013 at 12:13 AM

    Good post on Fangraphs about Harper vs lefties:http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/bryce-harpers-weakness/Worth a read.

  34. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    As I posted yesterday afternoon, Suzuki has started 69 games. What I didn't post are the Nats have a W/L of 32-37 in those 69 games.If you factor in that team ERA of 3.97 plus his poor offensive numbers you have 2 factors to ponder in comparing catchers.

  35. SonnyG10 - Aug 13, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    Good Article DP.

  36. SonnyG10 - Aug 13, 2013 at 12:34 AM

    Wilson is younger than Kurt and a better hitter so we have to go with Ramos. However, I would say that Suzuki seems more agile and can slide out to block pitches in the dirt away from the plate better than Ramos. Ramos tries to backhand the balls way to his right instead of sliding out to block with his body. Also Zuk has made some unbelievable catches of very high fastballs that the buffalo would never get to.

  37. Section 222 - Aug 13, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    Rizzo and Davey and Cat had a choice between Zuk and Ramos and they are riding Ramos the rest of the way.Ghost we've disagreed about this before, but really. Don't you think that this decision has to do with the following numbers much more than their respective game calling abilities? Come on.Catcher 1 — 263 PA, .218/.276/.311/.587 Catcher 2 — 150 PA .294/.327/.490/.816If Catcher 1 were Wilson Ramos with his supposedly superior game calling skills, do you really think they would ride Ramos? I also agree with SonnyG that Suzuki is a superior defensive catcher in many ways.

  38. David Proctor - Aug 13, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    Is there really any question that Suzuki is the better defensive catcher? I mean, I'll even grant that maybe Ramos calls a better game, but when it comes to blocking balls, catching balls, etc., it's absolutely no contest that Suzuki is better.I think Suzuki is one of the better defensive catchers in the league. He just can't hit.

  39. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2013 at 1:22 AM

    Yes, Suzuki is much more nimble behind the plate saving more wild pitches but that is a small part of the game. The ERA differential is a bigger part of the game and Wild Pitches are not excluded from ERA.

  40. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2013 at 1:26 AM

    David Proctor said… Is there really any question that Suzuki is the better defensive catcher? I mean, I'll even grant that maybe Ramos calls a better game, but when it comes to blocking balls, catching balls, etc., it's absolutely no contest that Suzuki is better.I think Suzuki is one of the better defensive catchers in the league. He just can't hit. August 12, 2013 9:01 PM I think the ERAs don't back up your assessment because I think you don't value enough the play calling aspect of the defensive part of the game.I'm not saying it's 3/4 of a run a game like the stats say it is, but I think it's significant plus the W/L differential is large.

  41. David Proctor - Aug 13, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    I'd argue the ERA and W/L differential are 1. largely coincidental. Correlation vs. causation and 2. at least as far as W/L goes, largely a result of Ramos significant offensive production

  42. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2013 at 1:40 AM

    David, you could be right but I think that play calling and handling the pitchers is not given enough credit here.I have always been impressed by the comments of Ramos teammates and former teammates. Jerry Hairston called Ramos a future All-Star and Detwiler said Ramos calls a great game.

  43. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:10 AM

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/08/nl-east-notes-nationals-zimmerman-halladay-abreu.htmlMLBTR says Zimmerman's "UZR rates him at a troubling 15 runs below average thus far in 2013".

  44. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:12 AM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said… Yes, Suzuki is much more nimble behind the plate saving more wild pitches but that is a small part of the game. @Ghost: What isn't a small part of the game is catching a throw from the outfield and tagging out a runner.Ramos is absolutely, positively awful at this. In fact, I cannot remember his tagging out a runner at the plate this season.

  45. David Proctor - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:13 AM

    Not surprising Ghost. The million dollar question is if it's merely descriptive or if it's a sign of things to come in the future as well. I don't think anybody truly knows the answer to that at this point. Zimmerman had a great night at third yesterday, both with the glove and the arm. He actually looked like a real 3B.Can he maintain it?

  46. David Proctor - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:14 AM

    Ramos tagged a runner out at the plate on Opening Day, Sunshine. Harper threw to Ramos, who threw to Espinosa who threw back to Ramos and then Ramos applied a tag on Stanton who ran home.

  47. Theophilus T. S. - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:29 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  48. Theophilus T. S. - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:31 AM

    I'm skeptical that Ramos, or any other catcher, has all that much to do w/ how well the pitcher pitches. They all start out with a game plan, usually a collegial effort among the pitcher, catcher and pitching coach. Sometimes they modify from the game plan, e.g., if Gonzalez can't throw his FB for strikes. But generally they know going in how they intend to pitch every opposing hitter, including the bench guys. Now sometimes the pitcher, e.g., Gonzalez (again), needs some tough love or knock in the chops to keep his head from spinning. And we've seen Ramos getting in Gonzalez's grill. But if Ramos redux is so much better than Suzuki why has Gonzalez become more unreliable rather than less?

  49. Ghost Of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:32 AM

    Ramos in 1/2 the games that Suzuki has this season has 4 tag putouts at the plate compared to 5 by Suzuki.I think some of you have short memories. Again, if it's a problem it would show up in large impact in the ERA. 3.17 ERA when Ramos is behind the plate.There is no doubt that Ramos could improve on the catch & tag aspect of the game and so can Suzuki and most catchers. Kratz couldn't handle Utley's throw yesterday and 2 runs scored.

  50. Doc - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Stats on defensive catchers need an update.I've watched Zuk do too many good things behind the plate to think that the Buffalo is better. I mean how often does Ramos blow a pop foul?? Then there are the dropped tags at HP.Zuk, from all reports, makes a study out of the batting habits of players he and the pitcher are facing.Absolutely love to see Ramos in the lineup. He's also getting better as a hitter. But I think that Zuk is the better receiver.

  51. Holden Baroque - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Some pitchers do work better with certain catchers than with others, even if it's not universal. Even though they don't have "batteries" anymore, you can just work better with some people than others, and it's no reflection on either one, it's just chemistry or sympatico or thinking alike, whatever. It might be less pronounced at the MLB level because it IS the MLB level and they're all pros, but they're still human.

  52. Holden Baroque - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:38 AM

    Kratz couldn't handle Utley's throw yesterday and 2 runs scored. Which reminds me, I meant to ask if anyone saw this: the bat was left lying right in front of the plate–I don't think Utley's throw hit it, but it was certainly close, and that had to have been a distraction, at the very least. Did anyone see for sure if the throw nicked the bat?

  53. SonnyG10 - Aug 13, 2013 at 2:54 AM

    I re-watched the game tonight and I'm pretty sure Utley's throw did not hit the bat. It was close though.

  54. Mississippi Snopes - Aug 13, 2013 at 4:32 AM

    In looking at the Nats' long-shot chance at the wild card, don't just focus on the Reds and the Diamondbacks. The Cardinals are 10 games ahead of the Nats, but their schedule the rest of the way has some challenging opponents:Braves – 4 games (.605 win pct)Pirates – 9 games (.598)Reds – 7 games (.559)Nationals – 3 games (.487)Rockies – 4 games (.462)Mariners – 3 games (.462)Cubs – 6 games (.441)Brewers – 6 games (.432)I'll be at the Sept. 25 Nats-Cards game in St. Louis and would for it to be in the midst of a Cards' freefall.

  55. Holden Baroque - Aug 13, 2013 at 5:48 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  56. Holden Baroque - Aug 13, 2013 at 5:50 AM

    I ask about whether it hit the bat because if it did, I think that would have been interference, according to rule 6.05h."Rule 6.05(h) Comment: … If a whole bat is thrown into fair territory and interferes with a defensive player attempting to make a play, interference shall be called, whether intentional or not."

  57. Holden Baroque - Aug 13, 2013 at 5:53 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  58. Holden Baroque - Aug 13, 2013 at 5:55 AM

    I really should use the "preview" function.Here's a good "you make the call!" scenario:With a 2 strike count, the hitter fouls a ball straight back into the catcher's mask, and by sheer luck, the ball happens to bounce straight up, high enough that the catcher has time to realize where it went, and catch it in the air before it hits the ground. Is that a foul tip, and therefore strike three? What if it tipped his mitt first, and then went up?

  59. D'Gourds - Aug 13, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    agree!

  60. D'Gourds - Aug 13, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    why would the Sto's do that deal. Bo is awesome. He gave fire to the team. He won't be managing the Nats any time soon.

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