For Wilson Ramos, seeing is believing after LASIK surgery

VIERA, Fla. - It seems too simple an explanation to actually be true. Then again, sometimes the simplest explanation really does apply.

Wilson Ramos struggled at the plate last season. Despite avoiding the disabled list for the first time in his major league career, the Nationals catcher posted a career-worst .229 batting average, .258 on-base percentage and .358 slugging percentage while striking out in a career-high 20 percent of his plate appearances.

Then earlier this month, Ramos left Nationals camp and flew to Washington to get LASIK surgery on his eyes. Since returning, he has torn the cover off the ball, sporting a .333 batting average (6-for-18) with two homers, including a solo shot to left-center during Monday's exhibition win over the Astros at Space Coast Stadium.

Wilson Ramos bat white close.pngIt's only 18 at-bats, of course. And it's the Grapefruit League, not the National League. A far larger sample, in games that actually count, is needed before anyone legitimately can make the correlation.

But neither is it unfair to wonder right now whether the simplest explanation is true. Is improved vision the reason for Ramos' resurgent bat?

"I don't know if it's his eyes," manager Dusty Baker said Monday afternoon. "But I know if you can't see, you can't hit."

This much is clear: Ramos is seeing the ball better, and he believes the LASIK surgery has made that possible.

"I can see the difference now," he said. "I can recognize the pitch well, and not swing at bad pitches. That makes me feel comfortable and excited because before I was swinging at everything, balls or strikes. I was feeling very mad sometimes because I'd say: 'That's a very bad pitch. Why am I swinging?' Now I feel more comfortable at the plate. I know it's (seven) games after surgery, but I can see the difference. I feel more comfortable."

This sort of thing isn't unprecedented. Plenty of big league players have raved about the benefits of laser eye surgery. Former Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman was a career .260 hitter before he had the procedure done in 2007. From that point through the remainder of his career, he hit .296, earning an All-Star selection in 2008.

Ramos had worn contact lenses prior to this spring, and he hadn't noticed any real vision problems until last season, when he admitted he started having some trouble reading numbers on the scoreboard from a long distance during night games. He didn't think much of it, until Nationals team optometrist Keith Smithson recommended LASIK to him after his annual eye exam this spring.

After taking several days off upon returning from Washington for the procedure, Ramos began swinging in the batting cage again. Then he returned to game action and noticed an immediate improvement.

"I recognize the pitches better, and what's coming," he said. "When the hitters feel that, you feel more comfortable at the plate because you can recognize the pitch. You can take balls and you swing at a lot of strikes. You don't swing at everything."

Ramos says he notices improvement not only at the plate but behind it as well.

"Yeah, it's way different both sides, offensively and defensively," he said. "Behind the plate, I see the ball better. Sometimes before, I lost the ball blinking. Sometimes I lost the ball. Now it feels better. That's amazing."

Maybe there's more to it than this. Maybe the sample is far too small to draw conclusions, and everything will even out before long.

But maybe the simplest explanation really does apply here.

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