The title of the best baseball player is open to many definitions and there is never a right answer. Of course, Los Angeles-based outfielder Mike Trout has always been an option for the better part of a decade, thanks to his historically impressive early career stats. But we made a case last week for LA Dodgers’ Mookie Bates, who outnumbered or outperformed the trout in the previous handful of seasons. You can also advocate for Aaron Judge, who has an incredible season for the New York Yankees, or the two-way sensation of the Angels, Shohei Ohtani – whose 2021 season was different from anything we’ve seen in a century – or even for defense. Philadelphia Phillies’ National League MVP is the only player to have won several MVP awards in the past decade, in addition to Bryce Harper, Trout and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera.
All those names are mentioned in the best conversations of baseball. But a player is often absent, even at the expense of anyone: Cleveland Guardians’ third baseman Jose Ramirez.
According to the above victory, Ramirez is third in the overall fight since the 2017 season (behind only Bates and Trout). And yet, US Google Trends search data suggests that Ramirez has been acquired Too much Less attention than any of his peers during that period:
Of the top 10 players from 2017 by WAR, Ramirez is easily the least sought after; Although he ranks third in the War in his group, he still ranks eighth-lowest in the top 40 overall. Ramirez’s fares in the Dominican Republic are slightly better than the rest of the world in search of trends around the world, and it is thought that he may be more famous than his little Google traffic. But it is true that Ramirez is overlooked as a great player.
Ramirez never had a runaway-MVP-type season to elevate his position among baseball’s top superstars. His WAR has risen and changed in the last five seasons, but Ramirez has never been ranked sixth among all the players in any individual season or among the first three batsmen. (Ramirez has the No. 2 MVP finish to his name, even though it came in the 2020 epidemic-shortened campaign.) Instead, it’s about accumulating value; Ramirez is the only player to make it into the top 10 in the total WAR five different times since 2017 (including 2022) – batting or pitching. In addition to the 2019 campaign low (by its standards), Ramirez has been a model of consistent performance over the years. But the disadvantage of consistency is that, at times, it can be easy to assume.
Ramirez can also be overlooked as he is a unique genius who does not fit into the characteristic mold of MLB sluggers. It is listed at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, and its combination of defense, base running and contact-hitting ability is comparable to other small-but-talented infielders in the entire history of baseball – but hardly any of these were capable. Smash the ball with great force. Ramirez, meanwhile, has averaged 28 home runs in each of his 162 games to go with a .280 batting average, .357 on-base percentage and 162 per 26 stills. All of this makes him an erotic in today’s game: a pint-shaped, fast third baseman who doesn’t strike … and yet he has the strength of a much lighter player.
That personality line was also evolving. In the past, Ramirez was at the forefront of the generation of small hitters who got their amazing power numbers from loading to pull the ball using the entire field. From 2017 to 2021, the switch-hitting Ramirez was MLB’s fifth-most pull-heavy hitter and the fourth-lowest to hit the ball in the middle. Not every batter needs to be like Jedi Martinez or Mike Piazza, both of whom were known as slugs for great power in the opposite field, but using a relatively narrow piece of diamond to your detriment can be limited, even if you hit both sides of the plate. (During his career, Ramirez’s OPS was 56 percent lower than usual when going in the opposite direction as right and 54 percent lower in the opposite area as lefty.)
But this year, Ramirez has taken steps to make more use of the field. He was only 49th among qualified batsmen in the pull rate in 2022 and his 35.1 per cent tendency to hit the ball in the middle is now slightly better than the league average (this is true for the first time since he was a 21-year-old batsman in 2014). While acknowledging that he is still one of the least likely hitters to use the opposite field, we can expect Ramirez’s low pull-centric swing to eat some of his power numbers – and his average exit rate is lower than last season, even relative to the league in a year when overall power Decreased.
But despite this, Ramirez’s energy output remained high. Its .344 isolated slugging is second only to the judges in the MLB, career-best 132 percent better than the league average. Even if its actual slugging percentage of .651 is significantly higher than the number expected from its statcast metrics (.527), it should be sufficient to grab our attention.
Ramirez may also have a relative anonymity because he didn’t shine much later in the season – or he hasn’t had a chance to do so in recent years. In its first season as a regular lineup in 2016, Ramirez had 5.0 WAR and was a key part of Cleveland’s journey to the division championship. He was also a playoff starter as the team traveled to the first World Series in almost two decades, even taking home the first run of Game 1. But his post-season total was nothing special (.662 OPS), and not to mention the big mistake he first picked up as a potential tying run at the start of Game 7 – Cleveland could be used as an epic contest after the run.
Over the next two seasons, Ramirez combined to take a 2-31-for-2-31 lead, as Cleveland took a 2-0 lead over the Yankees in the 2017 Divisional Series and the Houston Astros quickly won the following year. Ramirez’s performance against the Yankees in the 2020 Wild-Card Round was very good – he hit .429 with 1.413 OPS – but his pitchers had a collective ERA of 11.00 in the series, so Cleveland never got a chance. All told, Ramirez’s career in the OPS playoffs is only .572 (against .865 in the regular season), his team has lost eight consecutive seasons of games since the lead against the Yankees, and Cleveland has not had much success either. Playoffs in two of the last three seasons.
It’s a good idea to ignore a national audience that is over-focused on post-season performances. This season could also change for Ramirez and parents. While our forecast model gives Cleveland a 43 percent chance of making it to the playoffs, it gives parents a 23 percent chance of winning AL Central and a 1 percent chance of ending their 73-year global series drought. If Ramirez continues to play at the MVP level – another 23-year-old second baseman Andres Gimenez, 24-year-old outfielders Steven Quan and Oscar Gonzalez, and 24-year-old pitcher – Tristan Mackenzie, will be boosted by an enthusiastic young core. At the start of the season, Cleveland can at least raise eyebrows (with Ramirez’s profile).
But Ramirez, one of baseball’s greatest contemporaries, should not be underestimated. As we have seen with Trout, a great player can earn a lot of respect even if he is literally not present at a later stage of the season. (Ramirez has played eight times more career playoff games than Trout.) Whatever the reason for his lack of flair, Ramirez clearly deserves to be a big star – something he’s been proving for years, with his stellar numbers.
Check out our latest MLB forecast.