After spending 15 days on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, catcher Wilson Ramos was activated by the Nationals on Monday and could be back in the lineup any day now. The 25-year-old started Opening Day and was thriving before the injury with a .300 average and two home runs through his first six games. But while the Nats may have missed his bat, Ramos’ ability behind the plate could be an even bigger asset.
Before going out Ramos was rotating starts with fellow catcher Kurt Suzuki and, for whatever reason, having a lot more success with Nats pitchers. The staff, in fact, has a 1.29 ERA this season with Ramos calling games compared to 4.01 with Suzuki.
Ramos has appeared in six games this year while Suzuki has caught 20, a big difference in sample size. But the discrepancy in pitcher success is consistent across the board.
Check out the Nats’ starters and their numbers by battery mate this year:
Ramos: 13 IP, 0.00 ERA, 10 SO, 1 BB, 1 HR
Suzuki: 17.1 IP, 5.19 ERA (10 ER), 19 SO, 10 BB, 2 HR
Ramos: 5 IP, 1.80 ERA (1 ER), 7 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR
Suzuki: 23.0 IP, 5.09 ERA (13 ER), 20 SO, 11 BB, 3 HR
Ramos: 6 IP, 1.50 ERA (1 ER), 1 SO, 2 BB, 1 HR
Suzuki: 30 IP, 2.10 ERA (7 ER), 18 SO, 5 BB, 1 HR
Ramos: 5 IP, 5.40 ERA (3 ER), 5 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR
Suzuki: 19.1 IP, 6.52 ERA (14 ER), 15 SO, 4 BB, 6 HR
Ramos: 6 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 SO, 1 BB, 0 HR
Suzuki: 25.0 IP, 2.52 ERA (7 ER), 15 SO, 5 BB, 1 HR
All five starters have been better with Ramos than Suzuki and some more clearly than others. Just look at Strasburg who has played just 4 1/3 less innings with Ramos, but has yet to allow an earned run. Pitchers have also allowed just two homers in 35 innings (.057 HR/IP) with Ramos compared to 13 in 114 2/3 innings (.113 HR/IP) with Suzuki.
Though this sample size may be small, the trend traces back to last season. For the four starters who were with the Nationals in 2012, they played better with Ramos for the most part as well. The only exception was Gonzalez who last year had a slightly lower ERA with Suzuki than Ramos.
Ramos: 26 IP, 1.38 ERA (4 ER), 25 SO, 3 BB, 0 HR
Suzuki: 26 IP, 4.50 ERA (13 ER), 27 SO, 13 BB, 3 HR
Ramos: 28.2 IP, 2.20 ERA (7 ER), 35 SO, 10 BB, 0 HR
Suzuki: 67.1 IP, 2.00 ERA (15 ER), 60 SO, 24 BB, 3 HR
Ramos: 45.1 IP, 2.18 ERA (11 ER), 31 SO, 8 BB, 2 HR
Suzuki: 50.2 IP, 4.44 ERA (25 ER), 50 SO, 14 BB, 5 HR
Ramos: 22.1 IP, 2.01 ERA (5 ER), 14 SO, 6 BB, 1 HR
Suzuki: 48 IP, 4.12 ERA (22 ER), 30 SO, 17 BB, 4 HR
In 2012 the combined ERA of the four pitchers with Ramos was 1.99 while Suzuki's was 3.52. The difference wasn’t even close for Strasburg, Zimmermann and Detwiler. Each saw their ERAs double with Suzuki and for Strasburg it was about three times that of when he pitched to Ramos. Strasburg and Zimmermann pitched about the same innings with each guy, too.
The comparison between Ramos and Suzuki isn’t the only data that backs Ramos as a game-caller. For the three pitchers who have been in Washington their entire careers – Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Detwiler – each have better ERAs with Ramos than their career major league marks.
Strasburg career: 2.96 ERA
Strasburg with Ramos: 57 IP, 1.26 ERA (8 ER), 49 SO, 4 BB, HR
Zimmermann career: 3.37 ERA
Zimmermann with Ramos: 137.1 IP, 3.28 ERA (50 ER), 99 SO, 23 BB,13 HR
Detwiler career: 3.60 ERA
Detwiler with Ramos: 102 IP, 2.91 ERA (33 HR), 52 SO, 29 BB, 10 HR
Gonzalez goes way back with Suzuki, the two have been a combo for 500 1/3 innings in their careers. Gio, in fact, has worked with Suzuki more than the other ten MLB catchers he’s teamed up with combined. The lefty, and his teammates for that matter, like both Suzuki and Ramos.
Suzuki has also played well in Ramos’ absence. He is hitting just .241 but has two homers, seven RBI, and four doubles in 20 games.
By most standards, the Nats essentially have two catchers capable of starting for good teams. But either way you spin it, Nats pitchers have been better with Ramos than Suzuki. Maybe his return can help Washington’s rotation get back to the level they were last season as the game’s best staff.