Most of the bitching about how terrible the Cubs have been this year has been directed at a few key cogs that appear to be overpromising and underdelivering. "Pena will hit 80 bombs! Garza will throw 90 shutouts! Byrd will slug .500, even though his second-highest full-year home run total is 12!"
What's that guy's name again? Aramis something-something?
Meanwhile, Aramis Ramirez has been, to use a turn of phrase, quietly flying below the radar. Which is sort of easy to do with a .280 average, a .340 on-base percentage... the Cubs' offensive woes can't be his fault, can they?
All throughout spring, Mike Quade said he was sure about two spots in the line-up: Castro was going to hit second in 2011, and Aramis Ramirez was going to bat fourth. Then Castro hit .400 for a month, and Quade decided to change his mind. Today, Aramis Ramirez has one home run. Is it time to make another change?
Here are Aramis' slugging percentages since 2004:
.578 - .568 - .561 - .549 - .518 - .516 - .452 - .377 (so far this season)
Here's another metric - isolated slugging (ISO), which controls for year-to-year variation in batting average by taking the singles out of the slugging (simply SLG - AVG):
.260 - .266 - .269 - .239 - .229 - .199 - .211 - .096 (so far this season)
Let's be fair: just like Carlos Pena is not going to hit .167/.313/.256 all season, Aramis is probably due for a bit of a bounce back from his thus-far power-sapped performance later this year. But will he be the best candidate for the four spot?
Check out these ISO numbers from another aging Cub, from the same time frame:
.204 - .243 - .283 - .261 - .252 - .182 - .238 - .330 (so far this season)
There's no way around the fact that the Cubs are relying on three 33+-year-old hitters to provide the power in their line-up (make that four if you want to actually sit around and hope that Marlon Byrd will hit more than 12 homers this season). The question is, which guy do you want batting clean-up? Is it Aramis Ramirez?
Is it Alfonso Soriano?