Hitting the ball in the air consistently is easier said than done. It implies applying theoretical changes to the way a batter hits the ball, often altering a lifelong routine. The hands, the launch angle, the hips, the legs… it isn’t an easy exercise. However, the New York Mets’ catcher Wilson Ramos decided to give it a try.
Why would a hitter try to lift the ball more often? Thanks to analytics and advanced metrics, we have come to understand that a batter would enjoy better results at the box if he hits line drives and fly balls than if he consistently puts the ball in the ground. Liners are considerably more difficult to field and often result in a high hit probability, while flies lead to increased slugging numbers, namely doubles, triples and homers. You can’t hit it out of the park if you don’t lift it.
So why did Ramos seek a change in his approach? According to Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News, he was getting tired of the critics and whispers.
After all, he hit 18.4 % of liners, 19.2 % of flies and an absurdly high 62.4 % of ground balls in 2019. He led the league in GB %. He is not particularly proud of it.
The Mets’ catcher had the drive to improve
Mets fans were particularly vocal about the situation. They often criticized the catcher’s offensive output from the stands and through social media.
“I heard a lot of bad things last year about hitting the ball the other way and not putting the ball in the air,” Ramos said to Thosar. “At some point, I got pissed. But I have to take those bad things as a positive. You can come back here and feel mad about the people talking about you, or you can come here and be the same person.”
Not only is Ramos trying to alter his swing – he already has a home run and a couple of well-struck balls this spring – but he is also getting familiar with new pitchers and experiencing fatherhood. He is also trying to improve as a framer.
It took him a month to become familiar with the change in approach from a ground ball hitter to one trying to join the “flyball revolution.” It remains to be seen which results he can achieve in the games that count. Certainly, the New York Mets and the fan base are intrigued.
“Years ago, people that hit for average were great players,” Ramos said. “Now, you can hit .300 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI and they don’t care. Now, if you hit 40 homers, .250 and 75 RBI, you’re one of the best players in baseball. So it’s totally different.”