This isn’t the first time Jose Ramirez has gotten hot, but it may be the hottest he’s ever been.
Over the last two weeks, The Angry Hamster has slashed an incredible .379/.419/.914 with seven home runs, eight doubles, and he has struck out in just 4.8 percent of his at-bats. All of those numbers are worthy of a deep dive on their own, but I’m here for one in particular: That beautiful, beautiful strikeout rate.
You can pretty much throw a dart at any Jose Ramirez at-bat and find a great example of him controlling every inch of the plate (and several inches of off it) and refusing to strike out, so let’s do just that.
Nowhere is safe when you’re facing Jose Ramirez
Last night against the Chicago White Sox wasn’t his greatest performance — he went 1-for-4 with a walk and actually swung and missed at a pitch — but his ninth-inning at-bat against Dylan Covey had a couple examples over the course of seven pitches that led to a walk.
Neither of his swings were particularly well-advised, either. The first came with one strike and was almost in the dirt; the second was so far inside that it hit him in the hands when he fought it off. Even when he’s not swinging at great pitches, he’s making contact and fouling them off, which in itself is helping him extend at-bats to eventually work into a double, or in this case, a walk.
Words and charts are all well and good, but few things can truly demonstrate how well Ramirez tracks the baseball like a good old fashioned GIF. Take a look.
The first swing:
The second swing:
Overall this season, Ramirez is one of the best in baseball at making contact. His overall contact ranks ninth in the majors at 87.3 percent, and his contact on pitches outside of the zone is 18th at 75.5 percent. And, not surprisingly, his swinging strike rate is among the lowest at 5.6 percent.
One fun way to look at Jose Ramirez’s insane couple of weeks is his heat map.
Where the hell are you supposed to pitch to Jose Ramirez? pic.twitter.com/9Cxgt27TUb— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) September 7, 2017
If you can manage to place a ball absolutely perfectly in the bottom corner of the zone, you have a 30 percent to make Jose miss. Anywhere else, he’s going to hit it, and if recent history proves anything, he’s going to hit it very, very hard.
Jose is quietly an MVP front-runner
As of this writing, Ramirez is fourth in the American League in FanGraphs WAR behind Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout. Altuve and Trout make sense as candidates — the former is having a great overall season and the latter is second in fWAR and first in wRC+ despite missing several weeks of the season. Judge is just coasting off his hot start and the team he plays for, and if he wins over Jose, we riot.
Where Ramirez makes the best case for MVP is his versatility. No, he’s not a utility player, but he is an outstanding fielder at third base or second base, wherever the Indians have needed him. If you’re one of those people who want to emphasize “valuable” in “Most Valuable Player,” Jose should be the MVP handily.
His ability to slot over to second base opened the door for Giovanny Urshela and Yandy Diaz to play third in Jason Kipnis’ absence, instead of Erik Gonzalez getting everyday playing time, or worse Michael Martinez. Urshela may not have a bat to his name, but he’s one of the best fielding third basemen anywhere, and with Yandy Diaz learning to lift the ball he’s becoming an offensive weapon. Neither of those tools get utilized if Ramirez isn’t a capable second baseman as well as third baseman.
With all of this great hitting and versatile defense, you would think he’d be on the tip of every MVP discussion, but that’s not quite the case — outlets still can’t stop disrespecting The GOAT himself. Even MLB themselves fail to recognize Ramirez. In a poll they ran on Twitter last night asking about the AL MVP; Altuve, Judge, and Trout were included as well as an “Other (comment!)” option.
Who should win AL MVP? #TheDugout— MLB (@MLB) September 7, 2017
You may notice someone missing there, and so did just about everyone else.
Following Altuve (who, ok, maybe should win), and Mike Trout, “Other” came in third with 23 percent of the vote. And the comments below the tweet are flooded with Indians fans showing support for Ramirez. If there was any doubt about Cleveland’s love their beloved Jose, it should be gone now.
The goat himself, Jose Ramirez!— Betsy (@HeavensToBetsy_) September 7, 2017
Can't believe @MrLapara is not on this list.— Dan Allgeier (@Buffalo_1966) September 7, 2017
Jose Ramirez.— Dr. Brandon Bowers (@blbowers12) September 7, 2017
Jose Ramirez— Mandi (@CleTribeGirl) September 7, 2017
September 7, 2017
Jose Ramirez— Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) September 7, 2017
JOSE RAMIREZ— sportsyelling. (@sportsyelling) September 7, 2017
JOSÉ— sancho. (@og_wahoo) September 7, 2017
September 7, 2017
Give the man his trophy.