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José Ramírez provided stability and MVP production for Cleveland in 2021

There was never a doubt

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Was there ever a doubt that José Ramírez would be Cleveland’s MVP for 2021? Some rogues voted for Amed Rosario, Franmil Reyes, and others, but the GOAT himself won a vast majority of our first round of voting for the 2021 Cleveland Guardians MVP.

In a season where so many Guardians missed significant time with injuries, perhaps José’s biggest contribution was just being there. The 29-year-old played in a team-leading 152 games this season and was one of only three position players to compete in more than 100 (Amed Rosario and Franmil Reyes being the other two). And this was even after fouling a ball off his own face, breaking a streak of 75-straight games to start the season as he was sidelined following a doubleheader with Detroit.

This is nothing new for Ramírez. Aside from an injury-shortened 2019 season, he has played in at least 152 games since he earned a full-time spot in 2016. In 2020, he played in 58 of the team’s 60 games (and casually put up 3.5 fWAR in that short span). Almost a decade into his career and he looks like the definition of a cornerstone player.

Of course, just being there isn’t enough to warrant near-unanimous support for being the team MVP for 2021 — you also have to play well. Boy howdy did he.

Offensively, Ramírez finished with 36 home runs, the second-highest total in his career, and led the Guardians in virtually every counting stat imaginable. He also had the lowest strikeout rate of any regular starter (13.7%), the highest wRC+ (137), and the highest walk rate (11.3%) of anyone whose name does not rhyme with Shmordan Shmuplow.

Even with an outstanding season, all signs point to the future being even brighter than back-to-back MVP-caliber seasons. By his own lofty bar, this season was a bit of a “down year.” While that 137 wRC+ led the downtrodden Guardians offense, it was merely his fourth-highest ever. He was some kind of hybrid between his powerhouse 2018 season where he cranked a career-high 39 home runs, and the early years of his career where he made contact with everything as a Micheal Brantley-lite.

This production came with one of his lowest-ever BABIP (.256), but all of his advanced measurements light up the Baseball Savant rankings. His exit velocity, whiff rate, and expected wOBA, batting average, and slugging, all ranked in the 84th percentile or better in 2021. In other — elite. Pure elite.

Ramírez matched all this production and unprecedented level of swagger, culminating in wearing a chain of himself ... wearing a chain. If this doesn’t scream “MVP”, I don’t know what does.

Ramírez is still under contract through 2023 via options, but I still hold out hope that Cleveland will find a way to extend him beyond that. Seeing that he’s made less than $30 million under his current deal, I wouldn’t blame him one bit for wanting to try for a big free-agent payday following his age-31 season in 2023. But if the newly-minted Guardians want to make a splash and give fans hope for the future they couldn’t go wrong with making their first move extending a franchise icon like José.

The easy decision is out of the way; now the real debate begins. Who was the second-best player of 2021?

  • Shane Bieber: 96.2 IP, 3.17 ERA, 33.1 K%, 8.1 BB%, 3.21 SIERA, 2.6 fWAR
  • Aaron Civale: 124.1 IP, 3.84 ERA, 19.9 K%, 6.2 BB%, 4.41 SIERA, 0.8 fWAR
  • Emmanuel Clase: 69.2 IP, 1.29 ERA, 26.5 K%, 5.7 BB%, 2.52 SIERA, 2.2 fWAR
  • Andres Gimenez: .218/.282/.351, 5 HR, 11 SB, 5.2 BB%, 25.7 K%, 73 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR
  • Triston McKenzie: 120.0 IP, 4.95 ERA, 27.5 K%, 11.7 BB%, 4.36 SIERA, 1.1 fWAR
  • Eli Morgan: 89.1 IP, 5.34 ERA, 21.4 K%, 5.8 BB%, 4.51 SIERA, 0.4 fWAR
  • Zach Plesac: 142.2 IP, 4.67 ERA, 16.7 K%, 5.7 BB%, 4.73 SIERA, 1.1 fWAR
  • Cal Quantrill: 149.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, 19.6 K%, 7.6 BB%, 4.52 SIERA, 1.9 fWAR
  • Franmil Reyes: .254/.324/.522, 30 HR, 4 SB, 9.2 BB%, 32.0 K%, 125 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR
  • Amed Rosario: .282/.321/.409, 11 HR, 13 SB, 5.3 BB%, 20.4 K%, 99 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR
  • Myles Straw: .285/.362/.377, 2 HR, 13 SB, 10.8 BB%, 18.7 K%, 108 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR

Poll

Who should be our No. 2 Guardians player for 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Shane Bieber
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Aaron Civale
    (1 vote)
  • 37%
    Emmanuel Clase
    (29 votes)
  • 0%
    Andres Gimenez
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Triston McKenzie
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Eli Morgan
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Zach Plesac
    (0 votes)
  • 32%
    Cal Quantrill
    (25 votes)
  • 3%
    Franmil Reyes
    (3 votes)
  • 12%
    Amed Rosario
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    Myles Straw
    (3 votes)
77 votes total Vote Now