He’s not only the American League Player of the Month; he is one of the five best position players in all of baseball. Even more specifically though, he’s not just one of the five best position players so far in baseball’s 2022 season, he’s way better than that. Since his first full season in 2016, he’s legitimately one of the best players in the game, period.
Yes, he’s Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez.
Only the great Mike Trout and Mookie Betts have more Wins Above Replacement as position players since Ramirez’s first full season in the Majors in 2016. And while baseball fandom has come around to give Ramirez his just due in recent seasons, just how prolific he is might still be one of the best kept secrets in Cleveland sports.
If an advanced stat like WAR isn’t your bag, then consider this: Since that same 2016 season Ramirez has hit more home runs than Betts- who has won a Most Valuable Player Award, scored more times than Trout- arguably the best player of his generation, driven in more runs than either of them and struck out at a lesser rate than any of the other top 30 most statistically valuable players.
And for all of his offensive prowess, it’s that last statistic that might be the most impressive. Ramirez just doesn’t swing and miss very often. Not only is his 12.1% K-Rate the 13th best of any player since 2016 (and as previously stated but bears repeating, better than any of his peers at the top of the league), but in every single season of his career he has been in the top 10% in lowest Whiff Rate as a hitter. Again for emphasis, he doesn’t swing and miss.
This is a ballplayer that has led the American League in Extra Base Hits in a third of his Major League seasons and has been in the top six in EBH in another third of those seasons. So when he swings, it’s not only that he doesn’t miss. He also packs a wallop. All from a 5 foot 9, 195 lbs frame. All from a ballplayer that didn’t stick in his first trip to the show in 2015 and looked like a serviceable utility player at best coming into 2016. Those low end projections are now nothing but ancient history.
Ramirez isn’t only strong with the bat in his hand though. Only perennial Gold Glovers Matt Chapman and Nolan Arenado have more Outs Above Average at third base than Ramirez since the stat began being recorded (once again, in 2016). Additionally, when comparing how well Ramirez has fielded baseballs hit around him compared to how the average fielder would fare against the exact same hits, only three third baseman performed better. Those three third baseman are Adrian Beltre, who is likely slated for the Hall of Fame and the above mentioned two best defensive third basemen of their generation. And based off of Fangraphs Range Factor, only Chapman, Arenado and David Freese have had better range at getting to baseballs at third since 2016. No matter what way you measure it, Ramirez is among baseball’s elite third basemen on the diamond, without even figuring for the fact that his offensive output is greater than any of the names that are mentioned with him.
Granted, not everything is about statistics. All these stats are really meant to suggest one thing; that Ramirez is a major factor in helping his team win ballgames. And of course, since Ramirez’s full-time ascension to the Majors in 2016, the Guardians (and before that, Indians) have been one of the most successful teams in baseball. Sure, they haven’t one the big one, but let’s not forget that they have seen four playoff appearances in the last six seasons and the fourth most regular season victories of any team in baseball since 2016. In those four playoffs seasons Ramirez has most commonly hit in either the second, third or fifth spot in the order. He hasn’t hit lower than fifth in Cleveland’s batting order a single time since 2017. Is this all a coincidence? Doubtful. The Jose Ramirez era of baseball in Cleveland has been one of consistent contention and he has personally driven that contention; even when perhaps our attention was diverted more to the man standing about 40 feet to his left on the infield.
Which brings us to to our next point. Not only is Ramirez already among the top 20 most Valuable Indians/Guardians in franchise history based off of WAR- more valuable than any of his current teammates, more valuable than Kluber or Vizquel or Manny Ramirez or even the media darling Francisco Lindor. He has the chance to entirely re-write the record books in Cleveland because he plans to be a Guardian for the rest of his career. And even better, the organization is planning for that same thing. The 5-year, $124 million extension that Ramirez signed before the beginning of the season will not only leave Ramirez a Guardian through the age of 35, but it contains a no trade clause that he has the power to invoke if the team plans to deal him. Everything Ramirez has said indicates that he wants to remain part of the franchise, the fact that he took a likely below market value extension to stay with the team speaks even greater volumes to this fact. Everything is shaping up for Ramirez to be the longest tenured position player in the history of Cleveland’s American League franchise. Honestly, everything is shaping up for Jose Ramirez to be recognized along with Bob Feller as the two players most associated with the team’s history.
Jose Ramirez: "Fidelity is very important to me. In Cleveland I have always received very good treatment. Regarding the extension, for me $100M is the same as $200M. There are things that are worth more than money. I feel very happy in this team, that's why I decided to stay."
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) May 2, 2022
At any point in time he could have decided to play out the days he had remaining in Cleveland knowing that bigger pastures and paydays could be in his future. Gone are the days where fans dumped fake money onto the field when Albert Belle returned to the Jake, livid that he would skip town for bigger money. The younger generation of baseball fans tend to applaud ballplayers that seek out their value in free agency. At the very least they don’t hold a grudge. Ramirez’s leaving the Guards would have been met with understanding by most and frustration at management and ownership rather than at the ballplayer. Still, it’s refreshing to see someone like Ramirez value an organization and a community over an additional hundred million dollars (seriously, that’s an incredible amount of money!). For the most part, the days of the small market star staying with one ball-club are gone, but Ramirez wants to be the exception to the rule.
And as Cleveland fans we ought to applaud him for that. Better yet, all due respect to Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb and Darius Garland, but it’s no contest. Ramirez is the best athlete in Cleveland sports right now. He genuinely might be the most prolific athlete Cleveland has seen this century outside of LeBron.
And as much as I love LeBron, he left us twice! Jose is here to stay.