CLEVELAND – A player with defensive flexibility and the willingness to adjust on the fly usually plays well into the hands of manager Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians.
Jose Ramirez seems to fit this mold perfectly.
Since the genesis of his breakout season in 2016, Ramirez has played four defensive positions, batted in all nine spots of the batting order and managed to become the new face an emerging franchise.
Despite his ever-changing role, the Dominican Republic native has hit a wall in May, slashing .241/.313/.379 with five doubles, two triples and one home run in 24 games played (87 at-bats), 15 of which have been in the sixth slot in the lineup.
“Stuff like this happens,” said Ramirez through the club’s translator, Anna Bolton. “You’re not always going to play well, there’s always going to be good and bad moments throughout the season.”
Ramirez has started to turn the corner over a recent four-game hitting streak (5/26-5/29), his hottest stretch of the campaign that includes base knocks in eight of his 16 at-bats.
After batting .355 (50-for-141) with runners in scoring position in 2016 and finishing 17th in American League MVP Voting, this kind of production has become the norm for an infielder with just over two full years of big league service time under his belt.
“You just have to know how to act when things aren’t going as well,” Ramirez said. “Keep on moving forward and keeping on doing your best.”
Now that Jason Kipnis has slid up to the leadoff spot in Francona’s daily lineup, Ramirez has adjusted once more – batting sixth rather than fifth and playing third base rather than second base.
Here are his career splits at each spot…
Batting Fifth Career Stats – 116 games – 441 at-bats: .313/.373/.485, 8.8% walk rate, 10.2% strikeout rate
Batting Sixth Career Stats – 54 games – 203 at-bats: .296/.329/.478, 4.2% walk rate, 12.6% strikeout rate
Not a steep or concerning decline, but Ramirez has shown the tendency to regress when pushed further down the lineup card, a position where he may be pitched more conservatively with weaker hitters to follow.
Batting Fifth in 2017 – 33 games – 121 at-bats: .298/.374/.512, 11.5% walk rate, 17.3% strikeout rate
Batting Sixth in 2017 – 15 games – 57 at-bats: .263/.300/.439, 5% walk rate, 5% strikeout rate
While the slight change in lineup construction has worked wonders for Jason Kipnis and even Carlos Santana over the last week, the pieces have yet to fall exactly into place for Ramirez.
Nevertheless, his past two days are not only encouraging (6-for-8, three doubles, two stolen bases), but they have also yielded a pair of victories when the Tribe most needed them.
“Of course, we’re really happy,” said Ramirez. “We’re winning and we’re going to continue to work hard and continue to give our best. This is what we like to do, we like to win.”
Similar to years past, Ramirez is doing everything in his power to help the Tribe and their pursuit of another deep postseason run. His cooperation to move about the infield and everyday batting order makes him an ideal player for the defending American League champions.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.