Jose Ramirez is among the most beloved baseball players. His cheeky smile peeks over the top of the dugout railing as he rallies his Indians teammates. He’s the master of Mario Kart, unrivalled on the track. His helmet regularly flies off when he runs the bases. In fact, it happens so often that The Athletic’s Zack Meisel even keeps a log of just how many flee from his head.
José Ramírez 2020 helmet counter™: 42
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) September 22, 2020
Ramirez is one of the most impactful and dangerous hitters in the majors. Well, most of the time.
His Jekyll and Hyde 2019 season made me cautious as we entered 2020. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect this year. Especially once we discovered there would be just 60 games. A small amount of time where a hot or cold streak could make or break his year.
Ramirez finished third in the 2017 and 2018 AL MVP race. His star was most definitely on the rise. Then 2019 hit him like a tonne of bricks. His first-half numbers were brutal: a .218 batting average, .126 ISO, just seven home runs in 317 at-bats, and a measly 68 wRC+.
His second half was more like the Ramirez we knew and loved: 16 home runs in 165 at-bats, a .327 batting average and 1.105 OPS, for a much improved 176 wRC+. An unfortunate late-August break in his right hand sadly doused the flames on his resurgent campaign, but Ramirez had shown his dark days were behind him.
And yet, when the 2020 season finally began, I still had concerns that the old Ramirez, that first-half 2019 Ramirez, might make an unwelcome return.
Thankfully, we need not have worried. The energetic third baseman has enjoyed an immensely successful 2020, often keeping the Indians on track for a postseason berth single-handedly. The Tribe’s offensive production has been putrid, regularly ranking among the worst in the league in major hitting categories. Ramirez has been the exception, consistently effective at the plate, on the base paths, and in the field. He leads the Indians in batting average, home runs, RBI, OBP, SLG and just about every other acronym and category.
Could these 2020 Indians really be so lucky to have not one but two MVP candidates this year? It’s a distinct possibility. On the mound, Shane Bieber has been so ridiculously dominant that he’s not only receiving Cy Young consideration but there’s talk of him deserving the MVP as well.
Historically though, the award goes to a hitter, and Ramirez has put his name in the hat. Actually, he took his name, tossed it in front of him, and crushed it into the hat with a vicious swing.
At the time of writing, Ramirez is leading all of baseball with a 3.0 WAR, per FanGraphs. His 16 home runs see him currently tied for third in the majors, among the perennial MVP favourites like Mike Trout. Competition is always tough for the most prestigious individual award in the sport but Ramirez will certainly be in the conversation for a top-5 finish at least.
With the end of the season in sight, Ramirez just needs to maintain his blisteringly hot form for another week and he’ll be in with a chance of taking home the hardware. The last Indians player to win an MVP was Al Rosen in 1953. Could Ramirez add himself to the Cleveland history books?
It’ll be fun watching him try, as he slides in the dirt for yet another double, helmetless once again.
Ash Day is covering the Cleveland Indians throughout 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29