Los Angeles Dodgers: Can Hanley Ramirez Put the Blue Crew Back on Track?

Robert Pace@Robert_PaceContributor IIIMay 1, 2013

Hanley Ramirez made his 2013 starting debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers an emphatic one on Tuesday, belting a solo home run and tattooing a double down the right-field line.

Now that the Boys in Blue finally have their star shortstop back on the field and he is indicating he’s as healthy as ever, can Ramirez resurrect the Dodgers from their scoring woes and get them back on track?

The Dominican All-Star’s return from a thumb injury he sustained in the World Baseball Classic was much earlier than expected but couldn’t have been more timely.

With a load of early-season injuries that have plagued the Dodgers’ pitching staff in particular, the team, which is an even 13-13 a month into the season, will take any boost it can get.

Ramirez, who migrated to Los Angeles from the Miami Marlins at last year’s trade deadline, has received an assortment of reviews for his performance thus far in the City of Angels.

Although he popped 10 home runs with 44 runs batted in in 64 games with the Blue Crew last season, he has tendency to overexert as he swings for the fences.

With a decent batting average of .271 with the Dodgers last season, Ramirez struck out nearly as many times as he hit the ball, notching a mere eight more hits (68) than strikeouts.

While he happens to have two hits and two strikeouts so far this season, one of which he tallied in his first official at-bat of the 2013 season in a pinch-hitting appearance Monday, the Dodgers need not be concerned about Ramirez’s hit-strikeout ratio.

In his seven-season career, Ramirez boasts a .298 average with 1,171 hits and 740 strikeouts, which results in a 1.58 hit-strikeout ratio. So, if the 29-year-old can keep on pace with his career numbers, everything will average out just fine.

Moreover, Ramirez’s influence on the Dodgers extends beyond his personal performance at the plate.

Because of his dangerous bat, opposing pitchers try to avoid letting runners aboard before they get to the meat of the lineup, which results in the Dodgers’ top four hitters seeing better pitches. Those four hitters—Carl Crawford, Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp, and Adrian Gonzalez—are a tough bunch to face.

This impact was witnessed immediately in Ramirez’s return Tuesday, as the Dodgers' top four—Crawford and Ellis were replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto, respectively—accounted for eight of the team’s 13 hits. Ramirez tallied two of the remaining five hits.

It’s also no coincidence that each of the top four in the Dodgers’ order had an RBI, as they were seeing better pitches with runners in scoring position.

The Dodgers scored six runs against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday, which isn’t an amazing feat in baseball, but it’s an accomplishment for a team that has averaged 2.5 runs per game and has only scored six or more runs on six occasions this season.

Above all, there was energy in Dodger Stadium that has been missing since the home team set on its dreary start to the season.

Some of that can be attributed to South Korean rookie pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, who riled up the crowd with a dazzling six-inning performance in which he fanned 12 batters and only surrendered three hits.

Some of that can also be attributed to another South Korean, rap sensation Psy, who had the crowd in a frenzy when he danced to his dance track “Gentleman” in between innings.

Yet, it was clear that Ramirez had a significant impact on the team.

His confidence, wide smile and “I see you” hands brought a calmness back to this Dodgers roster. You could feel the pressure lifted off the shoulders of scrutinized slugger Matt Kemp.

So with a limited but seemingly defining sample to survey, can we assert that Hanley Ramirez is the solution to the Dodgers’ scoring woes?

The Blue Crew will still struggle until their starting rotation is set when Zack Greinke and Chris Capuano return from the disabled list.

However, Ramirez provides the boost that can carry them along in the meantime.