Edwin Encarnacion came to Cleveland to win a World Series.
That’s the reason most big free agents say they sign with a team, but you can never know for sure if it’s just for the big payday, or if they really mean it. If the last month is any indication, Edwin meant it, and he is willing to do everything he can to back it up.
The Cleveland Indians were not a great team over the last 30 days. They swept the Houston Astros in a series that started on May 19, and they wrapped it up with a sweep of Minnesota Twins, but things were ugly between the two sweeps. They lost two of three to the Cincinnati Reds, lost two of three to the Kansas City Royals, won three of four against the Oakland Athletics, lost two of three to the Royals, swept by the Colorado Rockies, won two of three against the Chicago White Sox, lost of three to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it culminated in the weekend sweep of the Twins.
Throughout that time, two players in particular stayed consistent, and may have kept the Indians from completely rolling over and going on a lengthy losing streak. While the starting pitching struggled, while the bullpen occasionally showed weakness, while Francisco Lindor struggled, and while Terry Francona found any excuse he could to not use Bradley Zimmer, Encarnacion and Jose Ramirez took the Indians on their backs and carried the team.
The duo are 1-2 on the Indians by most metrics over the last 30 days. Ramirez leads with a 1.3 FanGraphs and Encarnacion is a close second with a 1.2 fWAR. Purely offensively, Encarnacion leads with a 197 wRC+ and Ramirez is third with a 166 wRC+. Home runs? Edwin leads with nine and Jose is tied for second with five.
Take these next few points for what you will, but Edwin and Ramirez flat-out did not allow the Indians go on a losing streak throughout the month. The Tribe have not lost four games in a row since the beginning of recorded history, and these two are a big reason for it.
I compiled their starts in every win over the last month (excluding the Astros and Twins sweeps). Take a look:
Encarnacion: 2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Ramirez: 3-5, 2B, SB
Encarnacion: 1-4, HR
Ramirez: 3-4 2 (2B), 2 SB
Encarnacion: 3-4, HR, 2 RBI
Ramirez: 2-4, 2B
Ramirez: 0-4, R
Encarnacion: 3-4, HR
Ramirez: 3-5, 2B
Now, this is mostly just for fun and meant to appeal to your love of the romanticized side of baseball. Statistically, picking random games that happen to be wins is the most cherry picking thing ever, but having to sit through this team’s games for the past several weeks, I welcome this look this look at Edwin and Jose acting as the Tribe’s “stoppers.” Normally that’s a starting pitcher, but in this case it has been the towering Edwin Encarnacion, the scrappy Jose Ramirez, and maybe a third consideration.
Edwin’s slow start, which you have hopefully forgotten about by now, prevents him from leading the Indians in season numbers, but Ramirez has no such issue. The Angry Hamster leads the team in fWAR with 2.3 wins, and he is second in wRC+ with 140, behind another quiet hero of the season, Lonnie Chisenhall.
Despite a game where he had maybe the worst at-bat I have ever seen unfold live, Chisenhall is one of the Tribe’s hottest hitters this year and he’s not getting nearly the credit he deserves. His 10 home runs have him well on pace to beat his previous season high of 13 set in 2014. He’s also not striking out a whole lot, considering the current state of strikeouts in baseball. His isolated power rating has spiked to .336, while his BABIP is perfectly reasonable (and maybe even due for positive regression) at .270. Overall, he has just been a solid player and it’s gone mostly unnoticed.
Part of Lonnie’s success may come from his strict platooning by Terry Francona — only 20 of his 122 at-bats this season have come against lefties. But just getting platooned doesn’t set you up for success, Lonnie has been put into a position to succeed and he’s run with it. He doesn’t have the everyday success of Edwin and Jose, but he deserves credit for helping keep the Indians afloat.
Sweeping the Twins doesn’t mean the Indians are out of the dark just yet. Losing streaks can pop up just as easily as winning streaks in baseball, and the Indians are bound to have a few of each before the season ends. But, to me, being great in those awful, boring months deserves some kind of special recognition. Any player can be good while the team is rolling and feeling good, but Edwin and Jose have not needed any of that. With the Indians showing cracks at the foundation, the pair came in with buckets of a concrete-dinger mixture to keep the building upright and keep the dream alive.
There is still work to be done, but there’s a decent chance we look back at this month come October and realize two (and a half) players saved the season.