Cleveland Indians

Jose Ramirez lengthy absence comes at worst time for Indians

It was clear Jose Ramirez was going to miss substantial time, but there’s now a timetable for his absence as the Indians try to stay in the race.

After Jose Ramirez injured himself on a swing last Saturday, the Cleveland Indians announced he had suffered a fractured hamate bone in his right hand. Missing the rest of the regular season was a foregone conclusion, and after surgery the Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported Ramirez will miss 5-7 weeks.

In line with the Indians starting a surge where they erased an entire 11.5 game division deficit in from June 2 to mid-August and currently hold the top Wild Card spot in the AL, Ramirez turned things around after a slow start. From June 5 through last Friday, he had a .298/.345/.596 slash-line (.941 OPS) with 16 home runs, 58 RBI and 22 doubles. In July (.320/.340/.680, nine home runs and 25 RBI) and August (.321/.372/.705, six home runs and 20 RBI), he was particularly good.

Since the All-Star break, Ramirez has put up a 168 wRC+ and a 164 OPS+ with a 2.3 fWAR that put him fifth among all position players in the second half of the season. On Monday, with the news of Ramirez’s injury, FanGraphs dropped Cleveland’s projected wins for the season from 94.3 to 93 while dropping their percentage chance to win the AL Central by more than 10 percent and their chance to make the playoffs by almost 5.5 percent.

The Indians, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays are six games clear of everyone else in the AL Wild Card race, so two of those three will likely win the spots. If Cleveland wins a Wild Card spot (assuming they don’t win the AL Central) and they win the play-in game, Ramirez would be in line to return during a Division Series. Getting to that point without him will be the challenge.

Yu Chang was promoted to take Ramirez’s spot on the active roster after hitting .253 with nine home runs and 39 RBI for Triple-A Columbus this year, and he went 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored against the Royals on Sunday. Mike Freeman (.281, .807 OPS over 38 plate appearances this year) is also in the mix for playing time at third base in Ramirez’s absence.

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Peak-form Ramirez simply can’t be replaced, and that’s essentially what he has been over the last couple months. Chang and Freeman should bring replacement level production at third base, but the drop-off might be enough to leave the Indians home in October.

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