CLEVELAND, Ohio – Manager Terry Francona and the front office says there will be no changes in the Indians’ hitting coaches despite a long slump by All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez that culminated in him going 0-for-11 in the ALDS as the Indians were swept by Houston.
Ramirez, expected to finish in the top five of the AL MVP voting for the second straight year, hit .166 (24-for-145) with three homers and 16 RBI from Aug. 14 through the end of the season. The slump dropped his average from .305 to .270 and probably cost him a chance at winning the MVP award.
In the team’s annual end-of-the-season press conference on Wednesday, Francona was asked what happened to Ramirez.
“He got himself into a predicament and he couldn’t get himself out of it,” said Francona. “It’s hard to figure out because a guy can be that good, that dominant and then just couldn’t get (going). He kept peeling off balls even when he got pitches to hit, he kind of peeled off. He knew it and watched video and he just couldn’t get the feeling of staying through the ball.”
Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations, added, “I’ll maybe add that the timing of that obviously was unfortunate, with Jose’s struggles, but that’s not atypical for hitter. I remember the conversations with Jim Thome when he got off to tough starts in April and May and there was a question of whether or not we were going to bench him and not play him anymore.
“Remember the conversations (Francona) had with David Ortiz (in Boston), when are you going to stop playing David Ortiz? Then he went out and had five more years. So, the timing was unfortunate, but hitters struggle. Guys go through periods of time when they are not performing at their best.”
Francona was told that Ramirez’s performance over the last month and half of the regular season “killed” the Indians.
“What do you mean killed us?” said Francona. “We won the division by 13 games.”
He was asked about Ramirez’s performance in the postseason.
“I would say that (Gerrit) Cole and (Justin) Verlander (Houston’s starters in the first two games of the ALDS) had something to do with that,” said Francona.
Francona was asked if hitting coaches Ty Van Burkleo or Victor Rodriguez should be held responsible for Ramirez’s performance.
“I think that’s a reaction,” said Francona. “That to me is a very reactionary move. It’s a small sample and it hurt like crazy losing. Yet, we were probably in the upper tier in just about every offensive category.”
Francona asked if the question was based on disappointment with the postseason or Ramirez’s body of work for the season.
“The body of work,” was the response.
“OK, well then he’s going to be third in the league in MVP voting,” said Francona. “Do you still want to get rid of somebody?”
Francona was asked, “Is it a reflection on the hitting coach that he wasn’t able to get Ramirez straightened out?”
“I think it’s every bit as much of a reflection that a kid that we thought might be a utility player is going to be second or third or fourth in the league in MVP voting,” said Francona. “I think VanBo (Van Burkleo) is every bit as much to put the onus on for that also.”
In the regular season, the Indians finished second in the AL in batting average, third in runs, second in hits, fifth in doubles, fourth in home runs, fifth in walks, fourth in slugging percentage and third in on-base percentage.
In the ALDS, they were outhit .327 to .144, outscored 21-6 and outhomered 8-2. During the regular season the Indians struck out the fewest times in the AL, they struck out 30 times in three games.
In 2017, when the Indians blew a 2-0 lead in the ALDS against the Yankees, they hit .171 as a team and were outscored, 21-18. The Yankees hit .201 as a team.
Ramirez hit .270 (156-for-578) with 38 doubles, 39 homers and 105 RBI in 157 games in the regular season. He stole 34 bases to become just the third 30-30 man in franchise history. After the All-Star break, he hit .218 (48-for-226) with 10 homers and 35 RBI. Over the last two years, Ramirez is 2-for-31 with one RBI in the ALDS.