On a fully-healthy Cleveland Indians team, Jose Ramirez is probably a bench player. A bench player filling in literally anywhere on the field, mind you, but still a bench player. Michael Brantley's offseason surgery changed all that, and thrust Ramirez into a starting role in a new position. Saying he has adjusted well to the change is an understatement.
Early on in the season, Ramirez was a bit of a novelty for Indians fans. He was hitting well, but he was not getting quite every day playing time and we were still not sure if he was really as good as he appeared early on. One undeniable thing about him was his hustle, which often showed in the way that his helmet would be ripped from his head when he was running full-speed to first base or rounding second in a hurry. He was fun to watch, but how good could he really be?
And now, just a few short months later, Ramirez has all but won the starting left field job sans Michael Brantley, he's become a fan favorite, and he has probably guaranteed himself a spot somewhere else on the field when the Indians' All-Star left fielder finishes his rehab assignment based on how well he has played in the first half.
Ramirez has done a lot of things well this season, but we are here to talk about two, in particular: The Clutch and The Hair.
Few players in baseball are better with runners in scoring position than Jose Ramirez. Looking strictly at batting average -- in other words, getting a hit with a runner on second or third base -- Ramirez is tied for third in the league at .389.
In FanGraphs' Clutch rating, which measures how well a player does in high leverage situations compared to his normal offensive output, Ramirez is ranked 21st out of 167 players in the majors -- tied with Carlos Santana as the highest Indians player -- at 0.67. For some context, Ramirez and Santana trail Bryce Harper by just 0.03.
Ramirez has come up to the plate 84 times with runners in scoring position and left the box with a run batted in 36 times. The only other Indians batter to have 36 runs batted in with runners in scoring position is Mike Napoli, but he made it to that number in 109 plate appearances.
When runners are ready to score, Ramirez is not laying off the ball. Among nine Indians batters with at least 50 plate appearances with men in scoring position, Ramirez ranks third in line drive percentage (281.%), and first in medium-strength hits, as categorized by FanGraphs (66.2%). Basically, he is slapping just about everything over the infielders heads and into the outfield -- the perfect spot to score a run from second base.
Ramirez alone is the total antithesis to the 2015 Indians. When last year's team came up to the plate with a runner ready to score (or, hell, even bases loaded) there was a really good chance they would leave with nothing. Even this year's Indians, who are consistently one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, are not great with runners in scoring position. As a team, they have a .253 batting average, ranked 10th in the American League. Take away Ramirez's production with RISP and that drops to .239... .012 points lower than last year's Indians.
Enough of that baseball nonsense. Let's talk about his hair. You guys, his hair.
Ramirez has always had some kind of hairstyle, such as this messy top in a photo from last April with fellow clutch-master, Carlos Santana:
But now Ramirez has taken it to another level, growing out his hair a bit more and dying it orange:
Jose Ramirez new hairstyle is called "Orange." Someone else suggested "Clutch Cut." Said he wants a goatee to match. pic.twitter.com/Mibc3y4ecq— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) July 16, 2016
The Indians Twitter account made a certain observation about the look, which they now also sport as their avatar:
And even Ramirez realizes how great it is:
That's maybe the best thing about Ramirez this season (besides, you know, making sure the Indians win night in and night out). He is completely aware of, and embracing, the silliness. Whether it's the effect of Juan Uribe and their tongue-in-cheek father/son connection or just the fact that the team is winning, Ramirez is now one of the biggest personalities on the Indians.
Winning makes everything more fun, granted, but there is something special about the Indians this season. Whether it's the Party and Napoli's taking off, an impromptu exorcism for Yan Gomes' struggles, or any other multitude of things. This team is a ton of fun to watch, and some of the biggest reasons are Jose Ramirez's hair and his clutch hitting.