José Ramirez’s return to the Guardians‘ lineup on Monday was an excellent chance for him to refind his form.
Cleveland squared off against the Detroit Tigers, who are 8.5 games behind the Guardians for second in the AL Central.
But Cleveland limped through nine innings, dropping the first game of Monday’s doubleheader 4-1.
Not to be outdone, the club dropped the second game in an Independence Day doubleheader 5-3.
But forget the 9-4 combined scoreline.
Forget the only eight hits Cleveland managed between the two games (against 20 hits across both games by Detroit).
It’s officially time to mash the panic button on José Ramirez.
Ramirez was a no-show against the Tigers on Monday, despite sitting out of Cleveland’s Sunday win against the Yankees.
But no-shows have been Ramirez’s story of late.
Unfortunately, Cleveland’s success rises and falls with Ramirez.
For instance, since June 23rd, Cleveland is 3-10.
Over that same stretch, Ramirez is batting just .225, with 11 strikeouts across 49 at-bats.
In the 13 games prior to this rough stretch (June 7-22), Cleveland went 10-3.
And Ramirez was an unstoppable hitter, batting .340 with just five strikeouts across 53 at-bats.
In fact, Ramirez was only blanked at the plate twice during that June 7-22 span; by contrast, Ramirez only has a hit in four games over his last 13 games.
But the biggest tell is in RBIs.
Cleveland’s offensive philosophy is based on hitting for contact.
The Cleveland Guardians now have 3 wins this season when trailing by 3+ runs in the 9th inning or later.
The rest of MLB has 5 wins combined in that spot (no other team has more than 1).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 30, 2022
That means racking up as many hits as possible, getting batters on the base, and then using that constant supply of hits to drive in runs.
And Cleveland’s best supply of runs, until recently, was Ramirez.
Not only was he Cleveland’s best, but he was professional baseball’s best supplier of runs, as well.
Through June 22, Ramirez was cruising to the tune of 62 RBIs, either keeping pace with or setting the bar across the majors.
Ramirez has just one RBI in his last 13 games.
And Cleveland’s run production has stagnated at the same time; between June 7 and June 22, Cleveland scored more than four runs seven in seven games.
Over the club’s most recent 13-game stretch, Cleveland’s accomplished that feat just twice.
Four is a bit of a magic number for Cleveland: when the Guardians score more than five runs, the club is 27-3 (.900).
When Cleveland scores four runs or fewer, the club is 13-35 (.270).
Is Ramirez in a slump, along with the rest of the team?
The Guardians haven’t gotten much production from anyone of late except for Andrés Giménez, Eli Morgan, and Emmanuel Clase.
And when Ramirez doesn’t hit the ball, the club doesn’t win.
But perhaps something bigger is afoot than merely a “slump.”
Ramirez isn’t a player prone to slumping; this season, he’s been dominant.
Even during Cleveland’s earlier slump from May 10 through May 29, Ramirez still managed to bat .278 and drive in 18 runs in just 14 games.
No, something else is going on here: injury.
Look, it’s midseason and every player is dealing with some level of pain, be it soreness or something more.
Goodnight, friends. Even if we come back to win it, it’s just time to say goodnight. #Fortheland
— 216 Baseball Podcast (@216BaseballPod) July 5, 2022
But Ramirez’s play suggests he’s something more than “sore.”
Remember when Ramirez jammed up his thumb against the Rockies in mid-June?
The injury forced Ramirez out of action for part of Cleveland’s next series against the Dodgers.
Prior to the Dodgers series, Ramirez slashed .305/.397/.642.
In the 16 games since, Ramirez has taken 62 at-bats, but managed just one RBI and is batting .226.
Ramirez is a completely different player since that thumb jam.
It’s admirable that Ramirez is trying to play through the injury.
But so far, the club isn’t winning even with him in the lineup, and that thumb is likely only getting worse.
Perhaps Ramirez should take some time to heal, getting himself right for Cleveland’s playoff push at the end of the season.
The pressure is on to win, but winning starts (and ends) with a healthy Ramirez.
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