Cleveland’s Ramirez Finishes Third in MVP Race

The Indians’ Jose Ramirez finished third in the American League’s Most Valuable Player voting, Major League Baseball announced on Thursday night.

Boston’s Mookie Betts took home the league’s top honor for 2018, bringing the Red Sox’s right fielder another piece of hardware in a championship season. He led all of baseball with a .346 batting average, a .640 slugging mark, and a 10.9 bWAR and was selected as both a Gold Glove winner and a Silver Slugger recipient. His .438 on-base percentage was second in all of baseball only to Mike Trout, who finished second in this year’s voting. Betts was also tied for the MLB lead in runs scored (matching Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor with 129) and had the most extra base hits.

Betts earned 410 vote points, drawing 28 of the 30 first place votes given. Trout was second with 265 vote points, with one first place vote. Ramirez finished with 208, just ahead of Boston’s J.D. Martinez, who earned 198 points and the remaining first place vote.

In the senior circuit, Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich was named the NL MVP, defeating Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and Chicago’s Javier Baez.

Ramirez – Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Ramirez was off to a hot start and was a leading contender for the MVP award through the first half, earning his second straight starting nod at third base for the All-Star Game. He entered the break after 94 games with a .302/.401/.628 slash with 108 hits, including 26 doubles, two triples, 29 homers, and 70 RBI while stealing 20 bases in 23 attempts. That stretch included an eleven-homer month in May while hitting .336 and his second 25-RBI month of the campaign in July, when he hit .322 and was named both a Player of the Week and the Player of the Month.

Things changed drastically for Ramirez in the second half when it appeared that pitchers around the league altered their approach with the young slugger. A different diet of pitches led to a significant drop off in Ramirez’s offensive production, as he put up a .245/.365/.457 line in August with five doubles, five homers, and 16 RBI and a .174/.322/.315 slash in September with five doubles, two homers, and eleven RBI. He maintained a good percentage of free passes and did not strike out at big rates, but the balls that he put in play failed to leave the yard or find the gaps to allow him to do big damage. His second half production (.218/.366/.427 with 12 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, and 35 RBI in 63 games) effectively ended his MVP chances.

The dip in Ramirez’s production was not related to his move from his All-Star spot at third base over to second base to accommodate the addition of former AL MVP Josh Donaldson for the stretch run in September.

Ramirez played in a career-high 157 games over the course of the season and set new full season career highs in plate appearances (698), runs scored (110), homers (39), RBI (105), stolen bases (34), walks (106), on-base percentage (.387), hit by pitches (8), sacrifice flies (6), intentional walks (15), and bWAR (7.9). He became just the third player (Joe Carter, Grady Sizemore) in Tribe history to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a year. Following the season, Ramirez joined his fellow middle infielder Lindor when the pair were recognized with their second straight Silver Slugger Awards for their power production at the plate.

Ramirez would have fared favorably with the two men who finished above him in the voting had he not suffered a lack of production during his second half drop off, one that took him right out of serious consideration for the top offensive honor of the season. Ramirez played 17 more games than Trout and 21 more than Betts, leading to a significant difference in his number of plate appearances on the year. Despite that, he trailed Betts by 24 hits and 76 points in the batting title race. He finished with nine fewer doubles and one fewer triple than Betts, but both he and Trout hit seven more homers. Of the three top candidates, Ramirez held a substantial lead in run production, driving in 25 more runs than Betts and 26 more than Trout. He led the trio with 34 stolen bases (four more than Betts) and had the most sacrifice flies of the three.

Ramirez’s third place finish in the AL MVP voting marked his second straight finish in that spot in the voting and his third consecutive season earning at least one vote in the end-of-season balloting. It marked the third time in the last five years that the Indians have had a top three finisher in the MVP voting. The last to do so before Michael Brantley in 2014 were Roberto Alomar and Manny Ramirez, who tied with a third place finish and 226 points on a close ballot in 1999, when Ivan Rodriguez won with 252 points.

The Indians have not had a player finish second or higher since 1995, when Albert Belle was edged out of the award by Boston’s Mo Vaughn (despite Belle’s historic 50-homer 50-double season and superior offensive numbers across the board). Only three Indians have been named the league’s Most Valuable Player and none in 65 years (George Burns, 1926; Lou Boudreau, 1948; Al Rosen, 1953).

Lindor finished sixth overall in the voting with 169 points. Trevor Bauer also picked up a single vote to finish in a three-way tie at 22nd.

Photo: Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images

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