The Los Angeles Dodgers are arguably the best team in all of baseball, at least for the moment. That’s something you couldn’t dare to say during the first half of the season, though.
Rookie sensation Yasiel Puig has accumulated most attention from around the league, which is warranted, but the recent success of the Dodgers has been triggered by the emergence of Hanley Ramirez. It was a season that began on the disabled list and seemed as if that’s where most of his time was being spent in 2013. Things have clearly changed.
On June 4th, Ramirez returned from his second stint on the DL. Since then, his .384 batting average is an MLB best. On July 11th for the first time since April 15th the Dodgers had finally climbed above the .500 mark and haven’t looked back. There’s not a doubt that Puig jump-started this engine, but Ramirez is the one keeping it on track.
The Manny Ramirez-esque easygoing attitude of Hanley has the Dodgers playing without a sense of urgency that you saw during most of the first half of the season. In 2008, Manny put up some gaudy numbers to carry the team all the way to the NLCS. This current run by Hanley has a similar feel to it, when something big always seems to happen when he’s up at the plate. Teams are slowly starting to treat him like they treated Manny back in 2008, which means avoid pitching to him when the opportunity presents itself.
He’s hitting anything and everything right now, with most of his hits getting hit harder and harder every single time. Since June 19th, Ramirez is hitting .431 (1st in MLB), with 27 RBIs (2nd in MLB) and has a .798 slugging percentage (1st in MLB). The Dodgers have gone 21-8 during that stretch and trail the Arizona Diamondbacks by just 0.5 games in the National League West division.
All of this attention placed on Puig has probably created this monster in Ramirez, who has spent most of his career in the spotlight. The pressure to carry the load is off his back and now a few bad games doesn’t collect most of the blame as it would have in his days with the Miami Marlins. Credit for a win or blame for a loss in Los Angeles these days has strictly been directed towards Puig, which has allowed Ramirez to have a carefree approach this season.
The best hitter arguably in baseball right now hasn’t been talked about nearly as much as he should, but that’s been the secret all along. So the national media can continue to keep a close eye on the rise of Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig, while Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers stealthily make their way to the top of the NL West division.