CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Indians second baseman Jose Ramirez was an undrafted free agent. He was not highly regarded in the team’s farm system. He was a ‘super-utilityman.’
On September 15th, 2017, it was well-established that the 5-foot-9 ‘sparkplug’ was both the heartbeat of the best team in the American League and thus an MVP candidate.
If he had not already proved it throughout the 2017 campaign, or in his 3-for-3 effort prior, Ramirez cemented that fact as he set the stage for Jay Bruce’s walk-off double in the 10th.
On what looked like a routine single to center field to lead off the 10th, Ramirez made a large turn around first base. As Royals All-Star center fielder Lorenzo Cain bent to pick the ball up, Ramirez bared down on second, sliding in head first.
Had he not risked it all, Ramirez still would have been forced to second on Edwin Encarnacion’s walk in the following at-bat. Then again, the pitch sequence to the slugger would have been different had there not been a base open.
Say in that case, Encarnacion strikes out, or worse case, grounds into a double play. Then Bruce’s double may not score Ramirez, especially if he were not on the basepaths at all.
This is a microcosm of Ramirez’s game, and why he provides the extra bit of value that goes unnoticed.
Bruce has spoken at length about Ramirez’s efforts in the past, and he certainly noticed on Thursday night.
“He is the energy you want to have when you play the game,” Bruce raved. “He brings it every day. He really does.
“And there are certain guys who have that. He doesn’t care who’s on the mound. He doesn’t care who we’re playing. He doesn’t care if he’s 0-for-20 or if he’s 20-for-20. He’s bringing the same thing every single time. And it’s been awesome to watch.”
Ramirez has noted before that his game is predicated on effort on the basepaths. At one point earlier in the year, the All-Star had gotten thrown out on reckless plays on the bases so many times that he blamed his new brand of coffee for the overexertion.
His manager noted that there was no recklessness in this case.
“And his baserunning on that play, he rounded first under control, took a real good (turn), rounded the bag and then probably got down to about 85 or 90, and then saw where the throw was going and gave himself a chance,” Terry Francona said. “He’s not out of control. It was really good baserunning.”
There may be more to that fact, given that Ramirez decided to stretch the base on Cain who, according to FanGraphs, sports a -5 rARM on the year. The move was not just aggressive, it was possibly well thought out.
These are the plays that MVPs make, thought out to analytic detail or not.
Most likely, Jose Ramirez will not win the American League MVP award, overshadowed by the incredible consistency of the Astros’ Jose Altuve.
Just don’t take him for granted. The Indians don’t.