Babe Ransom Not Long for the Majors?

Cody Ransom’s career is in serious trouble.  After getting the huge break of ARod hurting himself and becoming the de facto starting 3Bman for the Yankees until ARod’s return, Ransom has started the season 3 for 30 with two doubles and two walks.

The “Babe” reference is an inside joke.  Once upon a time, Cody Ransom was minor league SS for the Giants, who the Giants long seemed to think was a great prospect in spite of the facts that he was a 9th round draft pick and his minor league hitting numbers were terrible.  In his defense, he played a good SS and had real power, but he struck out so often that he hit only .241, .207 and .253 in three full seasons at Fresno in the Pacific Coast League, a real hitters’ league.   After a fairly decent year at age 28 as a back up infielder for the Giants in 2004, in which he had a .702 OPS, albeit in only 68 ABs, and played in 78 games, mostly as a late inning defensive replacement and pinch runner, the Giants finally gave up on him that off-season, and dumped him.  I promptly forgot about him, figuring his professional baseball career would be over in at most a year or two.

However, a funny thing happened.  At age 30, playing for Houston’s AAA team the Round Rock Express, Ransom finally learned to hit.  He finished the ’06 season with an .824 OPS, split between SS and 3B, and he improved his OPS to .830 in ’07.  This got him 35 ABs for the Astros at the end of the season.  The Yankees organization acquired him one way or another in 2008, and at their AAA franchise, he had an .820 OPS, and was called up in August.  He hit home runs for the Yankees in each of his first two at-bats (thus earning the title “Babe”, at least as far as I was concerned), and finished the season with a 1.051 OPS, although in only 43 AB’s.  What’s so strange about this is that very, very few hitters truly learn to hit starting with the year in which they turn 30.  There are some players who don’t become successful major league hitters until after they reach 30, but almost all of them had good minor league seasons somewhere.   For a player’s OPS to jump a hundred points playing at the same level starting at age 30 and to maintain that new level of production for three years is almost unheard of.  But Ransom did it, and even though I thought he was a bum when he was in the Giants’ organization, I appreciated how he had turned his career around, and I wished that he would now establish himself as a major league back-up and have at least a few years of a big league career.

Now he’s 3 for 30, and it isn’t likely that the Yankees will give him much more rope.  It’s also a funny thing, when a player has a year that is way above his normal level of performance, he will often have a following season that is way below his normal level of performance. A good example of this is Nick Punto of the Twins.  In 2006, he had a great year for the Twins at age 28.  His year was well over his career norms, and when a friend who is a Twins fan asked me if Punto was for real, I told him probably not.  In 2007, Punto had a terrible year, his OPS dropping 163 points, and his OBP, his key offensive skill in 2006, dropping 61 points.  Well, Nick Punto isn’t really as good as his 2006, but he also isn’t nearly as bad as his 2007.  He bounced back with a fine year in 2008, but in considerably less playing time than 2006.

Now Ransom is no where near good enough to be a player with a 1.051 OPS.  His three years of AAA performance from 2006 through 2008, suggest a major league OPS of about .725, certainly good enough for a back-up who can play all four infield positions.  After reaching the stars in late 2008, he is now groveling in the dirt.  I hope he can turn it around and play at the level he established for himself in 2006 through 2008.

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