J.D. Martinez is finally a Boston Red Sox and it’s all anyone can talk about. It’s an earned celebration; the Red Sox needed a power hitter and Martinez is a true star with the bat. While he will certainly help the 2018 Red Sox get some power, don’t forget Hanley Ramirez and the impact he can have.

Ramirez arrived two days early to spring training, fully healthy and down 15 pounds. He credited Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s “TB12 Method” for his change in offseason workouts, and this news should make all Red Sox fans ecstatic.

Don’t Forget Hanley Ramirez

Hanley’s tenure in Boston has been a mixed bag, to say the least. He was terrible in his first season with the Red Sox, before transforming into one of the better power bats on the team in 2016. 2017 was a down year for him due to a nagging shoulder injury that sapped away his swing.

Overall, there have been two down years and one great year in Hanley’s three seasons with the Red Sox. However, so far there’s always been one consistent theme in determining the success of Hanley’s season. When he comes into spring training too muscular, he has a bad year.

2015 – The Muscular Hanley

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2015 showed that success in the weight room doesn’t necessarily translate to the field

Image credit: WEEI

Hanley came over to the Red Sox on a massive four-year, 88 million dollar deal, and immediately wanted to show his worth. The big acquisition spent all offseason lifting, and came into camp looking unnaturally ripped. Simple logic would dictate that big muscles equals big power, but that’s not always the case.

So much of what goes into being a power hitter comes from the form of your swing instead of the muscles on your body. Hanley spent so much time adding muscle onto his already jacked body that he lost his form. Hanley had a long, looping swing all season that clearly threw off his timing and never let him hit the ball clean. Sure, when he made contact the ball went far, but he was rarely making solid contact. Hanley finished that season with just 19 home runs, 10 of which came in April, and was considered one of the biggest free agent busts in Red Sox history.

2016 – Slimmed down Hanley

Hanley entered 2016 spring training with a different philosophy. Instead of getting as jacked as possible, swinging for the fences and assuming home runs would follow, he got smarter at the plate. He spent more time in the offseason working on having a compact swing, making solid contact, and knowing that he’d knock a few out regardless.

While this strategy led to his size being smaller, his numbers got bigger. Hanley’s swing, when it’s right, is so good that he’ll get his power number regardless of what he’s bench pressing. Hanley worked on getting his swing right, and the work paid dividends.

Hanley finished his 2016 season hitting .286 with 30 home runs and 111 runs batted in. This was the Hanley the Red Sox thought they were getting when they first signed him, and his production was a big part in the 2016 Red Sox having one of the best offenses in all of baseball.

2017 – Muscular Hanley Again

Coming into 2017, Hanley tried to add more muscle again. Maybe he thought the results would be better now that he had controlled his swing the year earlier. Maybe he knew that his bat would become more important than ever with David Ortiz out of the lineup.

Regardless of why he did it, the plan didn’t work out. It’s hard to discern how much of Hanley’s poor season was due to his year-long shoulder injury, but the obsessive lifting probably didn’t help anything. Ramirez looked slow and uncomfortable with the bat all season, and his looping swing returned from 2015. He still managed to hit 23 home runs, but his RBI’s dropped to just 62 and his batting average fell to .242.

2018 – Pliable Hanley

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Let’s see if pliability can help another Boston athlete in 2018

Image credit: Getty Images

Building muscle is great if you need to add power to your game, but Hanley doesn’t. His swing along gives him enough natural power to fill a hole in the middle part of the lineup. Hanley’s best course of off-season action is to get his body ready to handle the grind of a 162-game season.

By the looks of things, that’s just what he’s done. Hanley hasn’t been lifting as much this off-season, as evidenced by his 15-pound weight loss. In its place, Hanley has focused on resistance band training to improve his pliability and to keep his muscles loose.

This strategy has allowed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to continue to thrive at age 40. While a 162-game season bring different challenges than a 16-game football season, it’s hard to imagine a designated hitter taking the same beating as an NFL quarterback.

2016 has shown that Hanley doesn’t need to be freakishly musclebound in order to hit for power. He’s a strong guy regardless, and when he keeps his swing compact it’s one of the better swings in the game. In both 2015 and 2017, he spent his off-season trying to build up muscles. Both seasons ended with poor production and shoulder issues. So far, Hanley’s 2018 is mirroring 2016, and that’s a great sign for what might follow this season.


Cover image courtesy of USA Today.