When the Los Angeles Angels designated Noe Ramirez for assignment on May 16, 2021, he had several emotions colliding. It was the second time in three months that a team had released him, since the Cincinnati Reds had done so March 27. Furthermore, it was the second time in nearly six months that the Angels had parted ways with him. They were the ones who traded him to the Reds in the first place, doing so December 7 in exchange for closer Raisel Iglesias.
How does someone deal with being DFAed, especially when it’s not the first time? “It definitely doesn’t get any easier,” Ramirez said. “You start to question where your career is gonna end up going. A lot was running through my mind. But at the end of the day, I have the most confidence in myself, knowing that I will still be successful if someone gives me a shot. So I was trying to be as positive as possible, be patient and wait for the opportunity. Fortunately, a really good one came here.”
“A Pretty Easy Decision”
Four days after Noe Ramirez became a free agent, he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It could not have been a better fit. “We had history from (manager Torey Lovullo’s) Boston days. When they came calling, I was pretty happy about it. Torey was one of the first guys to give me an opportunity early on in my career. There were a couple minor league games that he managed and some split-squad games back with Boston where I was thrown in some pretty difficult situations. And I thrived. I loved it. We had a pretty good relationship, we’ve always been really, really cool with each other. So it was a pretty easy decision coming here.
“(Torey) told me right off the bat, ‘I’m gonna throw you in there.’ I compete — I don’t back down. So he told me right away I’d be in big spots.” It didn’t take long, as his second appearance came in the top of the ninth against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Diamondbacks trailed, 9–8, but the Dodgers were threatening to increase their lead. There was one out. Austin Barnes was on third. Chris Taylor was on first, and Will Smith was at the plate. “I got out of it,” Ramirez said nonchalantly. “It was quick, man. That’s what we want. As relievers, we want to want those situations late in the game, especially against really good teams. It’s always fun to do your job against them.”
Noe Ramirez Misses Some Time but Doesn’t Miss a Beat
Noe Ramirez put up zero after zero, pitching a scoreless outing in 14 of his first 16 appearances. Perhaps even more impressively, 13 of those 16 outings were hitless. He only walked four batters, with all four coming in different games.
Then the anvil dropped. COVID. On July 31, Ramirez and four teammates went on the COVID-19 list. By the time Ramirez cleared all protocols and was ready to play again, it was August 20. But he picked up where he left off. Of the 20 games he pitched over the rest of the season, he only gave up an earned run in four of them. A fifth saw him give up an unearned run. In total, 80.6% of his 36 outings with the Diamondbacks in 2021 were scoreless — 11 percentage points better than the league average.
Overall, Ramirez pitched 32 2/3 innings across his 36 appearances. He finished with a 2.76 ERA and 66 ERA-minus with 29 strikeouts, 11 walks, and a 0.888 WHIP. In late innings he saw few equals, leading the team with 11 goose eggs versus three broken eggs, a GE/BE ratio of 3.7. That was not only higher than the league average of 2.9 and the historic average of 3.0, but it was second on the team to J.B. Wendelken’s 8.0. In addition, he had a low extra-base hit rate. Of the 18 hits he gave up, 27.8% went for extra base hits — nine percentage points below the league average. As a result of all this, he led the team in scoreless outing percentage. Of his 36 Relief appearances, 29 were scoreless — 80.6%. The league average? 69.4%.
Noe Ramirez was one of the best-kept secrets in the National League in 2021. The one-time castoff ended turned into one of the top middle relievers in the NL. His success has carried over into 2022. As of this writing, he has appeared in nine games and pitched eight innings. His ERA has improved to 2.25, an ERA-minus of 60. Seven out of his nine outings — 77.8% — have been scoreless.
Ramirez has two goose eggs versus zero broken eggs. None of his three inherited runners scored. While his WHIP has gone up a few ticks to 1.250, it is still below the NL average. His walk rate has also gone up a bit, which is of slight concern, but it has not hurt him.
Working with Brent Strom
Noe Ramirez has enjoyed working with the Guru of Pitching, new pitching coach Brent Strom. “He knows how to communicate really well. He’s got a mix of old school and new school. That’s the most important part. Sometimes we can get way too caught up in numbers/analytics and lose the actual feel of an at-bat. For me, personally, I like to read swings. I like to toy with the batter’s head. It’s a mind game out there. A lot of times with analytics you can lose that.
“But Strommy really meshes both of those well. He’s been around and has worked with some really good players. He brings up a lot of helpful things during our meetings, bringing up these older players he’s worked with — some legends. Recently he’s had some really good pitchers with the Astros, so he has a lot of good info there. He helped them, and we know what they do. He’s a really good resource and a great coach. I’m pretty excited to work with him this year.”
Noe Ramirez Gleans Knowledge and Passes It Along
When Noe Ramirez arrived, there were only two true veterans in the entire relief corps: Joakim Soria, who was traded July 30, and Tyler Clippard, who is now pitching in Triple-A. Ramirez took the opportunity to learn from the long-time veterans. He watched “their work, their routines, and how they go about their job. They perfected their routine, which is why they played for so long.”
Ramirez and shortstop Nick Ahmed brainstormed toward the end of 2021 about what the team needed to add. They agreed that a biggie was veteran relievers. “We had some vets last year, but we felt that if we keep bringing those guys, (it would help). It’s great that we have Ian (Kennedy), Mark (Melancon), and Bum (Madison Bumgarner). It’s always good to have those guys for resources and (to watch). You don’t really need to ask questions — you just see them work. Then it’s not surprising that they’ve been around for so long.
“Let It Go. Today’s a New Day. Don’t Let It Pile Up.”
With the knowledge he has gained from those veterans, Ramirez feels he can help the younger players coming up. “I’ve been through it, as far as opportunities. Getting DFAed and all that a bunch of times, I’ve learned a lot. It’s something really important for me that I think I should keep sharing with guys. I don’t think I should keep it in. If it helped me, I definitely want to let the younger guys know.” One example Ramirez gave was “just to move on from bad outings. I used to have a bad outing stay in my head the next day and the following days, and I just couldn’t get over it. It would affect my future outings. The quicker I learned to have a short memory with bad outings, the better I was.
“True happiness is in the now. The only real time is right now. That’s what you’ve got to focus on. That’s the main thing I try to tell the younger guys. Just let it go. Today’s a new day. Don’t let it pile up.”
Praise for Noe Ramirez
One of the “younger guys” spoke highly of Ramirez — Sean Poppen, who has a little over a year of service time. Poppen said, “I spent a good amount of time with him in the ‘pen at the end of the year. He’s one of those guys that has had a sneaky lot of experience. You feel comfortable talking to him about things, because he he’s had some time (in the league) but doesn’t like hold that over your head.” When asked if Ramirez is older than you realize, Poppen agreed. “He’s very knowledgeable and knows a lot, but he’s open to new things. He’s a generally chill dude.”
Despite Ramirez being insanely competitive, Poppen said “he’s real chill when he goes in the game. He’s nails. That’s what it takes to be successful. Because if you’re constantly wound up the whole game in the ‘pen, you’re not gonna be able to hold that when you go in the game. You got to be able to keep your keep your heart rate steady, and then when it’s time to go, turn it on.”
Lovullo spoke of Ramirez with the same respect as he did for fellow relievers J.B. Wendelken and Ian Kennedy during a spring training interview. He said that all three have a strong presence and an ability to “repeat their delivery and make pitches. They don’t get glossy-eyed but go out there and execute at a very high level. And they don’t beat themselves. They’re gonna force the opposition to beat them. Those are some really good intangibles.”
Outlook for Noe Ramirez
For a team that has struggled in recent years to find a reliable fireman, Ramirez has seemed to be a godsend. Middle relievers, set-up men, and closers all play a key role late in games. Closers understandably get the most attention, but that does not diminish the importance of anyone else. Ramirez has been a perfect fit in Arizona, and with the tools he has, he should continue to be a valuable piece moving forward.
Noe Ramirez, Raisel Iglesias, Torey Lovullo, Austin Barnes, Chris Taylor, Will Smith, J.B. Wendelken, Brent Strom, Joakim Soria, Tyler Clippard, Nick Ahmed, Madison Bumgarner, Sean Poppen, Ian Kennedy