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The one thing Jose Ramirez hasn’t done this year

The goat is as beautifully imperfect as all of us

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The superlatives and champagne showered upon Jose Ramirez this season have been numerous and deserved. But where Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger had seemingly endless streams of liquid to pour over the goat, we’ve nearly run out of adjectives for how good he’s been.

As of this writing, among all MLB players, the diminutive slugger sits third in home runs, fifth in runs scored, fifth in RBI, fourth in stolen bases, eighth in walk percentage, eighth in lowest strikeout percentage, third in ISO, ninth in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging, fifth in wOBA, and fifth in wRC+ — that’s basically the entire FanGraphs dashboard, and the angry hamster is top-ten everywhere. He’s done all this while being in the top 12 in plate appearances, too.

Jose Ramirez in 2018 is consistent greatness.

Sure, Mookie Betts and Mike Trout have added a little separation in terms of fWAR lately, as Ramirez has cooled since August; however, he still sits third with 8.0. He is no longer on pace for the greatest season by a third baseman in history (9.7 fWAR, Darrell Evans in 1973 and Adrian Beltre in 2004; 10.1 bWAR, Al Rosen in 1953), but his pace of 8.6 fWAR would be tied for 19th best all time and 8.4 bWAR would be 20th best all time. To put it another, obvious, way, he’s still historically great.

A little digging does uncover one area in which Josey is lacking, and quite significantly, actually: clutch hitting.

By FanGraphs’ Clutch statistic, Ramirez not only falls outside the top 10, he’s not even in the top 100. With a Clutch rating of -1.41, he is just above with Jason Kipnis (-1.53) for 132nd among 144 qualified batters. This isn’t all Debbie Downer stuff, though; it’s important to note that Clutch is not a measure of how good a player is, it’s just a way of quantifying how a better player is than average in high-leverage situations.

The calculation for Clutch takes a player’s wins probability added and divides it by that players’ leverage index, then it subtracts that number from the player’s context-neutral wins (WPA/LI). This gives a range of values generally falling between 2 and -2. Ramirez’s -1.36 falls between “poor” and “awful,” but it does not mean he is a poor or awful player, of course. The two “worst” players in terms of Clutch this year are Mike Trout (-2.21) and Giancarlo Stanton (-2.21); the Indians’ best Clutch player is Yonder Alonso (0.8).

As a measurement, Clutch is solely backwards-looking. It can only tell us how a player has performed and not what he might be. So, ignore the premonition of a repeat of last year’s 2-for-22 postseason performance. We can not infer anything from Josey’s Clutch numbers.

A low Clutch rating just means that a player has not been better than average in demanding situations. Ramirez in regular situations (i.e., the context-neutral wins that form the denominator of the Clutch calculation) has been outstanding. More specifically, Jose has a WPA/LI of 5.27, which is second in MLB. This baseline performance is so good that to be better in high-leverage situations would be almost impossible. In fact, performing at this level in any situation is extremely difficult.

But that’s exactly why there’s nothing to worry about. Come playoff time, if he can hit like he has all season, Ramirez will deliver the goods for the Tribe. As for his recent slump, there are already signs that Jose is working out of it. One thing that seemed to correspond to the timing of the slump was a decreased percentage of fastballs seen, as pitchers adjusted to his ability to turn on the hard stuff.

But in the last month Ramirez has adjusted and raised his wOBA against the offspeed and breaking offerings he has seen more often.

Which is a longer way of saying that Ramirez is a talented hitter with elite bat-to-ball skills. If he’s going to slump, you can count on him to work out of it. If anything, it’s better to slump in August and September to get it out of the way. That way, when clutch hitting really matters, Josey will be locked and loaded.