CLEVELAND -- The debate over the American League Most Valuable Player Award has been focused on Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and Astros catalyst Jose Altuve for the past several weeks. In the discussion, Jose Ramirez has seemingly been pushed to the background.Ramirez is used to proving people wrong -- he
CLEVELAND -- The debate over the American League Most Valuable Player Award has been focused on Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and Astros catalyst Jose Altuve for the past several weeks. In the discussion, Jose Ramirez has seemingly been pushed to the background.
Ramirez is used to proving people wrong -- he has been doing it all his life -- and it is that attitude that has helped the Indians infielder develop into an MVP candidate. In all likelihood, Judge or Altuve will likely take home the AL MVP Award in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America when the winner is unveiled in a 6 p.m. ET special on MLB Network on Thursday night. But do not ignore all Ramirez accomplished.
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"Jose had such a great breakout year this year," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said.
That is why the BBWAA voters with the AL MVP Award as their task put him among the top three vote-getters, along with Judge and Altuve. In the National League, the three finalists are Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt, Miami's Giancarlo Stanton and Cincinnati's Joey Votto. Among the six candidates, Ramirez ranked first in doubles (56) and was tied with Stanton for the Major League lead in extra-base hits (91).
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Ramirez's propensity for extra-base hits is at the heart of his MVP Award case, but there is another layer to all the statistics that the 25-year-old switch-hitter amassed.
Consider for a moment how much time Ramirez spent bouncing between second base (577 1/3 innings) and third base (736 2/3 innings) this year. He was the AL's starter at third in the All-Star Game, won a Silver Slugger Award as a third baseman and was a finalist for a Gold Glove at the hot corner.
Yet, Ramirez spent the bulk of the final two months manning second base. This came after he bounced between left field and third in 2016.
"It's amazing to see a player who's moved around so much," Chernoff said. "He started in left field two years ago, third base, and then even in-season moving from third to second. To be able to put up the offensive season that he did this year, it's a huge credit to him and his dynamic athleticism."
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Ramirez appeared in 152 games for the Indians, posting a .318/.374/.583 slash line to go with 29 home runs, 83 RBIs, 107 runs scored and 17 steals. His 56 doubles were the third most in a season in franchise history, and the most by an Indians hitter since 1926. In Tribe history, only Albert Belle (103 in 1995), Hal Trosky (96 in 1936) and Player Page for Grady Sizemore (92 in 2006) managed more extra-base hits in a season than Ramirez did in 2017.
Ramirez's .957 OPS was tied with Altuve for the third-best mark in the AL, trailing only Michael Trout (1.071) and Judge (1.049). It was the highest OPS in MLB history among players who appeared in 60 or more games at second and third base in the same season. Among his AL peers, Ramirez also ranked in the top five in average, triples, hits, runs, total bases, slugging percentage and plate appearances per strikeout.
When Jason Kipnis was lost to injury, Ramirez took over at second base. When Michael Brantley was lost to injury, Ramirez took over as the team's No. 3 hitter. And Ramirez did so without ever losing a step in the field, in the batter's box or on the bases for an Indians team that won 102 games, clinched a second straight AL Central title and won an AL-record 22 games in a row between August and September.
Maybe Judge or Altuve will win the award. Just do not forget about Ramirez.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.