Lasik surgery helped, but there was more to unlocking Wilson Ramos

WASHINGTON — Wilson Ramos is having a career year in the final season of his contract with the Nationals, positioning himself well after 66 games to become one of the offseason’s marquee free agents.

With a .340/.389/.557 slash line at the plate, Ramos is playing above his career batting average by 82 points, his career on-base percentage by 88 points, and his career slugging percentage by 146 points. He’s also on pace to shatter career highs (in parenthesis) with 12 home runs (16), 15 doubles (22) and 44 RBI (68).

His Major League career had just gotten off the ground when he was traded by the Minnesota Twins in July 2010.

Minnesota, in desperate need of a closer, may not have known what they had in Ramos when they pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire Matt Capps, who had just made his first All-Star Game with 26 saves, from the Nationals. Capps would play two more seasons beyond 2010.

“This guy’s always had the upside to be this type of offensive player,” Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo told 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday.

Much of the 28-year-old catcher’s early success this season has been attributed to an offseason procedure; Ramos underwent Lasik surgery to correct his vision. Immediately he noticed a difference, telling The Post in March, finally, he could clearly see the difference between curveballs, changeups and sliders.

Ramos struck out in 20 percent of his plate appearances in 2015, a career high. With 31 Ks in 257 plate appearances, he has lowered his strikeout rate by 7.9 percent this season, a discernible difference.

And despite polling third in National League all-star balloting, Ramos is out-hitting Buster Posey and Yadier Molina by 52 and 80 points, respective to their season batting averages. His .947 OPS blows them out of the water.

Looking at Ramos’ OPS+, which adjusts for league and park effects, is yet another way to demonstrate his dominance over his counterparts. With a 100 OPS+ serving as league average, and each point above or below representing a percentage point above or below league average, you can really start to digest the significance of Ramos’ 147 OPS+.

That does not measure Ramos solely against fellow catchers, to be sure, but rather hitters across Major League Baseball, though his 47 percent superiority over league average hitters definitively puts him a cut above Posey (119 OPS+) and Molina (79 OPS+), too.

But there is more to Ramos’ meteoric rise than a simple elective surgery. Which brings us to our Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week, a recurring feature during Rizzo’s weekly radio address with The Sports Junkies.

Is Wilson Ramos lighter this year? Do you think it’s contributed to his success? — Jonathan in D.C.

“I think his weight is much better distributed this year,” Rizzo said.

“For the first time in his career he lived all season in the United States, which I think made a big difference for him. His family is here. All his family is from Venezuela, now living in the United States with him down in Florida for the winter.”

“He was in the best shape he ever came in into spring training,” he continued. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence that he and his family all being here, working out under our guidelines all winter, has something to do with him being in shape. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s a free agent year-to-be next year. That had something to do with that. He’s not much lighter; he is a little bit lighter, but not drastically.

“He is in much better shape and I think that’s due to his conditioning in the offseason, I think a lot of it has to do with that he lives in the U.S. now with his family, and worked out diligently over the offseason.

“And he smells free agency. He wants to have a great year and he’s been a huge contributor to us this year, but he’s really been coming into his own as a well-rounded player — offensively, defensively, game-caller, preparation-wise.”

“I think we’re finally seeing the Wilson Ramos that we thought he was going to be when we traded for him,” Rizzo said.

*All statistics according to Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.

More from Chris Lingebach
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