Indians fans, the good news is your team has three legitimate American League MVP candidates. The bad news is likely they will cancel each other out. The AL MVP race is a crowded one in the first place.Top candidates for the award include the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, the Astros’ Jose Altuve and Mike Trout of the Angels. The Indians’ trio of Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Corey Kluber deserve to be in any and all MVP discussions.
Deciding the clear favorite for the award among the red-hot Tribe, who won their 22nd straight game on Sept. 14 before the streak was stopped the next day isn’t easy. The Tribe’s terrific trio is collectively having incredible seasons.
Kluber is emerging as the choice for the AL Cy Young award, just ahead of the Red Sox’s Chris Sale.
The Indians ace has been dominant — he’s 9-1 since August 1 — and that dominance worked well within the Indians’ historic win streak.
That could help sway AL MVP voters to think long and hard about Kluber if he wins out, and is the clear Cy Young choice.
Kluber is 17-4 with a 2.35 ERA and 252 strikeouts, and he’s yet to crack 200 innings pitched (191 2/3). His WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) is a sparkling 0.85 and opponents are hitting just .188 vs. Kluber.
Eight pitchers in baseball history have won the MVP and Cy Young Awards in the same season. The last was the Tigers’ Justin Verlander in 2011 when he was 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA.
Kluber’s MVP hopes are a long shot at best, as are Lindor’s and Ramirez’s — mostly because the two are so similar, not only in stature and play, but in their stats.
Lindor and Ramirez have been connected since they debuted in the Indians’ organization in 2012 with the Low Single-A Captains. Lindor started the season with Lake County, with Ramirez joining the club midway through the season. They helped the Captains make the Midwest League playoffs.
Ramirez was on the fast track to the majors following that season, while the Indians took their time elevating Lindor through the minors.
Five years later, the shortstop and second baseman are performing at an elite level.
Lindor has 30 home runs with 81 RBI and a .279 batting average with 90 runs, 40 doubles and 14 stolen bases.
Ramirez has been even better, and arguably just as valuable. He started the All-Star game at third, but is now settled in at second, his natural position, and playing solid defense.
At the plate, he’s been a force with a .314 batting average, 27 home runs and 75 RBI.
The stat that doesn’t get enough attention is the 50 doubles Ramirez has hit. The major-league record for doubles in a season is Earl Webb’s 67 in 1931. The most recent mark was the Rockies’ Todd Helton’s 59 in 2000.
Ramirez’s 50th double, hit on Sept. 14 to key the Indians’ 22nd straight win, was enormous. It was a solid line drive to right-center but it didn’t look like it had the makings of a double. Ramirez’s hustle turned what looked like a single into another extra-base hit.
Ramirez’s 83rd extra-base hit turned into the winning run. He’s tied for the major-league lead with the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton.
Lindor was also huge on Sept. 14. His double in the bottom of the ninth with two outs tied the game vs. the Royals at 2. The Indians won, 3-2, an inning later.
Right now, the AL MVP race looks like a three-man race among Judge (.275 batting average, 43 HR, 96 RBI), Altuve (.348, 23 HR, 77 RBI), and Trout (.315, 29 HR, 65 RBI).
The Indians’ trio of Kluber, Lindor and Ramirez stacks up well against that group.
The problem with voters is likely deciding which Indians player is most deserving.
Good luck with that.
They are all deserving of MVP consideration.
Reach Podolski at MPodolski@News-Herald.com. On Twitter: @mpodo
BY THE NUMBERS
Pitchers who have won the MVP and Cy Young awards in the same season:
2011: Justin Verlander, Detroit (24-5, 2.40 ERA)
1992: Dennis Eckersley, Oakland (7-1, 51 saves, 1.91)
1986: Roger Clemens, Boston (24-4, 2.48)
1984: Willie Hernandez, Detroit (9-3, 32 saves, 1.92)
1981: Rollie Fingers, Milwaukee (6-3, 28 saves, 1.04)
1971: Vida Blue, Oakland (24-8, 1.82)
1968: Denny McLain, Detroit (31-6, 1.96)
1968: Bob Gibson, St. Louis (22-9, 1.12)
By Mark Podolski