Tribe fans know the value of Jose Ramirez, but Ben Zobrist has the higher profile. We take a look at how Ramirez and Zobrist are more alike than you think.
Jose Ramirez has turned himself into a special player, earning a top-20 MVP finish last year and starting off 2017 in much the same fashion. In Cleveland, he become a huge fan favorite for his clutch hitting, versatility, and style of play. His hair styles also don’t hurt his popularity, either.
For all of the love coming from Cleveland for Jose Ramirez, he still hasn’t earned as much name recognition as he deserves across all of the baseball world. But what if we were to look at a similar player, with a similar impact, at a similar point in his career? What if we were to tell you Ben Zobrist, he of the massive contract for the Cubs and high esteem, and Jose Ramirez are essentially the same player? It’s at least examining.
For Zobrist, he put up a .297 / .405 / .543 slash line in his first full time season while in Tampa. He also had a .948 OPS, a career high 27 home runs, and 91 RBI. He also did all of this while playing every position except for pitcher and catcher. That season, Zobrist was an All-Star and finished 8th in the MVP race for his 8.6 WAR season in 2009.
His career numbers mirror this line very much, with a lifetime slash line of .265 / .358 / .431 with a .789 OPS. He hasn’t hit more than 20 home runs since that 2009 campaign, and he’s only driven in more than 75 runs one more time (91 in 2011).
With 42.7 career WAR, Zobrist also did not have a season under 4.0 WAR until 2015, his age 34 season. This proves that his versatility and all around game are incredibly valuable, much like Jose Ramirez’s game. The only real difference is that Zobrist is making over $16 million this season.
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As for Ramirez, his slash line for his first real full season in 2016 was equally as impressive. With a .312 / .363 / .462 line and a .825 OPS, Ramirez beats Zobrist on batting average, just not on power. Ramirez only hit 11 home runs and drove in 76 runs in 2016. While those are great numbers, they fall just short of Zobrist’s first full season. His own 3.9 WAR in 2016 and 18th place finish in the MVP voting are nothing to overlook either.
Ramirez offers the same positional flexibility as well, having started games at four different positions. There’s little reason to believe that Ramirez can’t play everywhere but pitcher and catcher, much like Zobrist.
Given the start Ramirez is off to in 2017, it’s a good thing the Indians locked him into the five year, $26 million extension now. In a league where a mid 30’s Zobrist banks over $16 million a year Ramirez provides the same value at a fraction of the cost.
So what does all of this mean? As Indians fans, this isn’t news at all, if nothing more than just another reason to appreciate Jose Ramirez.
For baseball in general, the league is going to have the heir to the “Ben Zobrist” position in the broader pantheon of league stars.