Since being drafted in 2011 in the 4th round by the Boston Red Sox, Noé Ramirez has bounced around the minors as well as bounced around the major leagues. He seems to have finally found his home in Arizona where he finished the year with the Diamondbacks after pitching 32.2 innings over 36 games at the end of the year. Noé was a Cal State Fullerton product where he finished 2011 with a 1.69 ERA over 90.2 innings while striking out 103 and only walking 20. Let’s dive into what makes Noé Ramirez such a valuable closer.
Ramirez’s fastball only averages 89.1 MPH which is in the bottom 10% of the league in terms of average velocity. To make up for this lack of velocity, Ramirez releases the ball on average 4.73 feet above the ground which causes his fastball to drop 23 inches (versus the league average 15 inches). Along with that fast, Ramirez also has a changeup that drops 41 inches which is 10 inches greater than the league average for changeups.
Although velocity is king in this new era of baseball, there are some advantages to being a slower throwing pitcher. Ramirez has a 70% line drive and fly ball percentage, but with a slower throwing velocity comes a slower exit velocity. While being a fly ball pitcher usually leads to more home runs, Ramirez’s average exit velocity is 87.8 MPH, which is almost exactly league average. The slower a ball comes in, the more effort it takes to make it go out and this plays to Ramirez’s advantage.
The biggest change to me in Ramirez’s arsenal was the changes in his curveball from 2018 to 2021. 2018 was the worst year he had for any pitch and that pitch was his curveball which posted a 13 run value. In 2021 it dropped all the way to a -2 run value. What changed was not how Ramirez threw this pitch but where he threw it. In 2018, Ramirez threw his curveball in the middle column of the plate 21.9% of the time. This means that every 1/5 curveballs that Ramirez threw, finished over the middle of the plate. A recipe for disaster.
In 2021, that percentage dropped all the way down to 6.6%. Another thing that changed was that Ramirez stopped throwing his curveball low in the zone and instead started throwing up in the zone at a higher percentage. Finally, Ramirez threw his curveball middle-middle at an 8% clip in 2018. In 2021, that number dropped to 2%.
At the end of the day, gaining velocity is nice but as a player ages, sometimes that is not an option. Noé Ramirez is a good example of that as he worked to change the pitches he already had in his arsenal.