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Ramirez finishes 3rd in AL MVP Award race

Slugger's 8.0 WAR is highest for an Indians hitter since 1953
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- With a handful of games remaining in the first half of the 2018 season, Indians infielder Jose Ramirez let it be known he had decided against participating in the Home Run Derby. Then, he belted five homers in the six games leading up to the All-Star break.

That summed up Ramirez last season. He could turn any game into a must-see event.

CLEVELAND -- With a handful of games remaining in the first half of the 2018 season, Indians infielder Jose Ramirez let it be known he had decided against participating in the Home Run Derby. Then, he belted five homers in the six games leading up to the All-Star break.

That summed up Ramirez last season. He could turn any game into a must-see event.

:: AL Most Valuable Player voting totals ::

"I'm not surprised by anything that is happening with my career," Ramirez said. "I've always been like that, since I was a little kid, always doing things that no one was expecting of me."

On Thursday night, Ramirez finished third in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award behind Mookie Betts of the Red Sox and runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels. It marked the second straight year in which Ramirez -- a dynamic switch-hitting infielder -- placed third in voting for the AL's top accolade.

That was more of a surprise in 2017. This year, Ramirez made it clear the previous year was no fluke.

"You know, it's funny," manager Terry Francona said. "You guys always ask me, when guys are young, 'What are they going to turn into?' And you don't know. I mean, you'd like to think you watch him and you pay attention, but is the guy going to hit for average? Is the guy going to hit for power? Is he going to do both?

"Or, is he going to turn into this? He's a monster. He's getting better."

Video: Francona on Indians' offseason plans, Jose Ramirez

Betts was deserving of the AL MVP Award after posting a 10.4 WAR (via FanGraphs) for the 108-win Red Sox. The right fielder hit .346/.438/.640 with 32 homers, 80 RBIs, 129 runs and 30 steals, and he received 28 first-place votes. Trout (one first-place vote) was also worthy of being second in the voting. The Angels superstar posted 9.8 WAR with a .312/.460/.628 slash line, along with 39 homers, 79 RBIs, 101 runs and 24 steals.

Ramirez was third in the AL -- behind only Betts and Trout -- with an 8.0 WAR. That marked the highest in a single season for an Indians hitter since 1953 (Al Rosen, 9.1) and was tied for the 12th-highest showing in franchise history. Ramirez received one second-place vote and 10 third-place votes, while also garnering votes from fourth through seventh. He ended with 208 points, trailing Betts (410) and Trout (265).

Tweet from @MLBastian: The AL MVP will be unveiled tonight. Jose Ramirez will finish in the top three, along with Mookie Betts and Mike Trout. Here's a feature on Jose from October."Since I was a little kid, [I was] always doing things that no one was expecting of me."https://t.co/jPtPVtUhsX

Ramirez, who had a home in the Tribe's lineup as the No. 3 hitter, ended his campaign with 39 home runs, 38 doubles and 34 stolen bases. He joined Grady Sizemore (2008) and Joe Carter (1987) as the only Indians players to have at least 30 homers and 30 steals in a season. Ramirez did not stop there, though.

Ramirez -- the club's third baseman at the start of the season and its second baseman at the end -- also piled up 105 RBIs, 106 walks and 110 runs scored. In the process, he joined Barry Bonds (1992, '95-97), Jeff Bagwell ('97, '99) and Bobby Abreu (2001, '04) as the only players in MLB history to have at least 30 homers, 30 steals, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 100 walks in a single season.

Those numbers take on a different look when also considering the two-month slump that dogged Ramirez down the stretch.

Video: Ramirez wins second career Silver Slugger award

Over his final 50 games, Ramirez hit .202 with a .724 OPS, dragging his overall rate statistics down and hurting his stock in the MVP race. Opposing pitchers moved away from giving Ramirez -- one of the best fastball hitters in baseball -- heaters to feast on throughout August. Then, Ramirez struggled to find his mechanical rhythm in September and into the postseason.

"He got himself into a predicament, and he couldn't get himself out of it," Francona said at the end of the season. "It's hard to figure out, because a guy can be that good, that dominant, and then he just couldn't get [back on track]. He kept peeling off balls. Even when he got pitches to hit, he kind of peeled off. And he knew it, and he watched video, and he just couldn't get the feeling of staying through the ball."

That did not stop Ramirez from finishing with some staggering numbers.

Over the past two years combined, Ramirez has hit .294/.380/.567 overall with a Major League-leading 94 doubles and 172 extra-base hits. His 14.6 WAR in that span ranks third behind only Trout (16.7) and Betts (15.7). In 309 games during that span, Ramirez has piled up 10 triples, 51 steals, 68 home runs, 188 RBIs, 217 runs and more walks (158) than strikeouts (149).

"You're not sure he has any business being as good as he is," Francona said. "And yet, he is. And he finds ways to keep getting better. His numbers are fantastic, but it's not just the numbers. He also does the little things."

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.

Cleveland Indians, Jose Ramirez