On Tuesday, Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez batted in the heart of an American League lineup that ranked among the most fearsome in recent All-Star Game history. That wasn't by accident.Entering the break, it was Ramirez -- not Aaron Judge, J.D. Martinez, Michael Trout or anyone else -- who was
On Tuesday, Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez batted in the heart of an American League lineup that ranked among the most fearsome in recent All-Star Game history. That wasn't by accident.
Entering the break, it was Ramirez -- not Aaron Judge, J.D. Martinez, Michael Trout or anyone else -- who was leading the Majors with 57 extra-base hits. That includes 29 home runs (tied with Martinez for the MLB lead), 26 doubles and two triples.
How impressive is that total? Ramirez's 57 extra-base hits are the most by a switch-hitter before the All-Star Game -- more than legends like Mickey Mantle, Chipper Jones or Eddie Murray. Even accounting for the unusual amount of games before the break, Albert Belle and Hal Trosky are the only Indians players to put up more multibase knocks through his team's first 95 games of a season.
But projections make Ramirez's start even more impressive: He is on pace to finish with 97 extra-base hits, putting him within earshot of just five players who have finished with a triple-digit extra-base total since both leagues fully adopted a 162-game schedule in 1962:
Players with 100-plus XBH in a season in the Expansion Era (1961-present)
Barry Bonds (107 in 2001)
Todd Helton (105 in '01, 103 in '00)
Sammy Sosa (103 in '01)
Belle (103 in 1995) *
Luis Gonzalez (100 in '01)
* Came during strike-shortened season, in which Belle played in just 143 games
The seasons listed above came in some of the most feverish offensive climates in baseball history, while Ramirez is excelling in a comparatively sluggish year for big league hitters. Ramirez has already shown the ability to join this club, having hit 100 extra-base hits over his past 162 games played stretching back to last July. He could become the first player with 40 homers and 40 doubles since Nolan Arenado and Josh Donaldson in 2015, and just the third switch-hitter with that combination after Mark Teixeira (2005) and Chipper Jones (1999).
How is Ramirez doing this? Statcast™ says he's steadily hit more balls in the air and pulled the ball more, helping him double his rate of barrels, or the types of batted balls that yield the most extra-base hits. But Ramirez's power surge hasn't come with much sacrifice; only 11 qualified hitters entered the break with a higher contact rate. Ramirez doesn't chase very often, and his bat covers nearly every corner of the strike zone as he becomes increasingly harder for pitchers to master. Ramirez, a fringe player for Cleveland as recently as 2015, is now one of the Majors' toughest outs.
Ramirez isn't the only Indians player putting up historic numbers. His teammate Francisco Lindor is on pace for 94 extra-base hits (which would set an Expansion Era record for shortstops), meaning he and Ramirez could join Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1927 as just the second pair of teammates to both top 90 in a season. No big deal; we're just talking about the heart of the most famous lineup in baseball history.
Regression could certainly come into play, and both Ramirez and Lindor could sit more down the stretch with the Tribe already holding a huge lead in the AL Central. But there's serious potential for history in Cleveland this year; make sure it's on your watch list for the second half.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.