A Wounded Jose Ramirez Equals A Sputtering Cleveland Guardians Lineup

Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez is more important to his team than any player in the major leagues. Everyone in Cleveland knew that at the start of the season, but unfortunately for the Guardians, that fact is being proven game after game over the last two weeks.

The Guardians’ perennial MVP candidate was off to a sizzling start until suffering a bruised right thumb nearly three weeks ago. The injury didn’t force him out of the lineup until June 18 and 19, when the sat out the final two games of a three-game series with the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Ramirez then returned to the lineup, but he’s clearly not the same hitter he was over the first two months of the season. He’s continued to play through the injury, but his production has taken a major downturn since then, and so, not coincidentally, has his team’s fortunes.

When he sat out the last two games of the Dodgers series Ramirez was hitting .305 with a .397 on-base percentage, .642 slugging percentage and 1.039 OPS. He had 16 home runs, 20 doubles, and was leading the majors with 62 RBI.

However, in Cleveland’s last 11 games, seven of them losses, Ramirez has hit just .257 with a .286 on-base percentage, .385 slugging percentage, a .670 OPS, no home runs and one RBI.

The Guardians are not just the youngest team in the majors, they are younger than any Triple-A team. The importance, then, of the veteran Ramirez, who in three of the last five years has finished in the top three in the American League MVP voting, cannot be overstated.

Although the 29-year-old third baseman continues to play every day, the decline in his production has had a serious impact on his team’s success. When Ramirez sat out the two games against the Dodgers, the Guardians had a record of 33-27, and they were scoring an average of 4.61 runs per game.

However, since Ramirez’s thumb flare-up, in the last 11 games, Cleveland is averaging just 3.18 runs per game. The Guardians scored 11 runs in one of those games, but in the other 10 they have averaged 2.4 runs per game.

On June 22 the Guardians were in first place in the AL Central, one game ahead of second-place Minnesota. Since then, however, they’ve lost six of their last seven games. They went into Wednesday night’s game against Minnesota in second place, three games behind the first-place Twins.

Cleveland’s lineup was suspect at the start of the season, but the Guardians were actually leading the league in hitting for most of the first two months of the season. Ramirez was doing the bulk of the damage, but Cleveland was getting production from others as well.

Second baseman Andres Gimenez is having an all-star caliber season, hitting .310, and .407 with runners in scoring position. Shortstop Amed Rosario is hitting .352 in June, and he leads the American League with five triples.

Ramirez and rookie outfielder Steven Kwan are the two hardest players to strike out in the American League, and Cleveland as a team is by far the league’s best at putting the ball in play. The Guardians’ have struck out 50 fewer times than the next closest AL team, and 116 fewer times than the league average. Cleveland is second in the league in triples and third in doubles.

What the Guardians don’t do is hit home runs. Slugger Franmil Reyes, who hit 30 homers last year, has hit just four this year. Only the Tigers and A’s have hit fewer homers than the Guardians.

The man at the center of however much offense Cleveland generates on a given day is Ramirez, who has accounted for 30% of the Guardians’ home runs (16 of 54). Ramirez leads all Cleveland hitters in virtually everything: hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, walks, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS.

At his best he’s a one-man gang offensively. But with Ramirez currently struggling due to his thumb injury, his offensive production has taken a major hit, which is a major blow to a team that counts on its third baseman to be its offensive leader.

Ramirez’s ability to overcome his thumb injury enough to resume his role as Cleveland’s middle-of-the-order wrecking ball will go a long way towards determining whether or not the Guardians can keep pace in the AL Central race.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimingraham/2022/06/29/a-wounded-jose-ramirez-equals-a-sputtering-cleveland-guardians-lineup/