Shortstop, third base, second base, left field. Cleanup, leadoff, or any other spot in the lineup. The Cleveland Indians do-it-all Jose Ramirez has actually done it all for the Tribe in the first half of the 2016 season. He has done everything the team has asked of him and more. That is why I believe he is the real MVP of the Indians season thus far.
At the break, Ramirez is batting .295 with four home runs, 38 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 23 walks, 36 strikeouts, 43 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .352. He has the fourth best batting average on the team, the fifth most RBIs, the third most stolen bases and the third best on-base percentage amongst Indians with more than 100 at-bats. He has become a real weapon in the Indians lineup.
But, the stats that really demonstrate his immense worth are his numbers in clutch situations. With runners on, Ramirez is seventh in the entire league amongst qualified players in batting average, posting a .347 average. With runners in scoring position, he is even better, batting .377, which is the fourth best average amongst qualified players in the entire league. In a big situation for the Indians, Ramirez is the batter you want at the plate.
Coming into the season, Jose Ramirez was going to be the utility man who would fill in for Michael Brantley in left field until Brantley returned from his injury. He would be replacing Mike Aviles as the team’s utility man. He would be a player who Indians manager Terry Francona can use in many different situations to fill as needed, but not an everyday type player. Boy how that narrative quickly changed.
The first narrative-changing moment was the re-injury of Michael Brantley. After returning earlier than expected on April 25th, the move to part-time utility for Ramirez seemed to be on the horizon. But after just playing 11 games, Brantley was placed back onto the D.L. upon re-injuring his shoulder. New life was breathed into the young Ramirez as the second and most important narrative-changing effect happened; his play.
Ramirez has been great, producing for the first place Cleveland Indians. He could have been, in my opinion, talked about as a possible All-Star selection with how much he has done for the team. But, it was not to be. His teammates and his manager, though, see his importance. Terry Francona said earlier this season that, “You’d love to have 25 Jose Ramirez-type players on your roster, as a manager. You can plug him in anywhere in the lineup and not worry about him.”
He could be the most unconventional and quirky MVP of a team you may see. Wearing a helmet two sizes too big, he is seemingly always losing it when hustling on the basepaths. According to cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel’s unofficial official count, Ramirez has lost his helmet 25 times. His running style looks almost like a cartoonish kid running for his life, swinging his arms with impressive speed and wildness. His fielding can be a wild adventure as he doesn't always take the best routes, but he has done an adequate to good job in every position he is placed.
He has batted in every spot in the lineup, played in four different positions in the field and done almost everything the team has asked of him. He may not be a well-known player nationally like Francisco Lindor, but Ramirez’s importance to the team has been just as important. He is the MVP of the first half. Even with the expected return of Michael Brantley in the second half of the season, Ramirez should and most likely will remain an every day player for the Indians. He will just be using his versatility even more, switching positions on a more regular basis. His bat needs to be in the lineup. And, when the team needs a big at-bat, Jose Ramirez will be the player you want at the plate.
Statistics courtesy of fangraphs.com