Regardless of the events that transpire on Wednesday night in Cleveland, the evening will conclude with a 2016 Champion of Major League Baseball being crowned. The elation that one club and its fans will experience with an extensive drought ending will only be matched in its intensity by the devastation felt by the club and the fans on the other side at seeing their own drought continue. As such, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on and reflect on the third base matchup that the evening will entail.
Game 7 will feature the overwhelming favorite for the National League Most Valuable Player award in Kris Bryant, while his counterpart, Jose Ramirez, has ridden a breakout regular season to a key role on this gritty Cleveland squad. Bryant represents the best of the best at the hot corner. He’s a member of the elite. Ramirez was mired in an obscure role until Michael Brantley’s injury allowed him an opportunity to crack the everyday lineup. He’s seized that opportunity by utilizing his high contact and baserunning abilities, as well as some clutch play.
While the overall skill set and season statistics obviously favor Bryant, in glaringly obvious fashion, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how each performs at the most strenuous point of the game’s brightest stage. Across a nine inning game, we’re talking about the most minuscule of sample sizes. But it’s still worth wondering what challenges each could present for his opponent, particularly in regard to their ability to make contact, their ability to make strong contact, and the threat that they represent on the bases.
Here’s a broader overview of their regular season performances.
In some regards, they’re not quite as far apart as one might initially think. Both are able to reach base at a really nice clip, but what Ramirez has going for him is his ability to get on base and utilize that speed, while striking out a at a far lower rate. Whereas Bryant represents the significantly more impactful bat in the power game. Ramirez embodies that scrappy type of play that has become the Cleveland narrative. As such, he won’t be an easy out at any point for Kyle Hendricks, especially with his success against the changeup. It’ll be interesting to watch Bryant against Corey Kluber for a third time as well, with Bryant having found his groove at the plate over the last pair of games.
In terms of the ability and type of contact we’ve seen from both, refer to the graph below:
Ramirez has been one of the higher contact guys throughout the season. He’s been aggressive in his approach, and he’s been able to utilize that speed effectively in notching a few extra hits because of it. Bryant may strike out more regularly, but his contact rate is also significantly improved from 2015 and his contact ends up being far harder and, subsequently farther, than that of Ramirez. If what we’ve seen thus far in the series is any indication, Ramirez will use that high contact and baserunning ability to be a thorn in the side of Chicago, and if there’s a big time hit to be made on the part of the Cubs, it could very likely come off the bat of Bryant.
It should be relatively well known at this point what each can do on the bases, as the pair rank 1-2 in BsR. Ramirez sports an 8.8 mark, while Bryant comes in not far behind, at 7.3. Ramirez is a legitimate threat to go, with 22 swipes on the season. This could prompt the Cubs to go with David Ross in order to try and slow he and the other Cleveland runners to an extent. While Bryant isn’t as active in the run game, with only eight steals, he’s still a capable baserunner who has been lauded for his intelligence on the basepaths.
As one-sided as it may seem based off of name recognition alone, it’s still a fun matchup that we’ve been able to watch at the hot corner. You have two players in the top eight in WAR at their position, with both bringing different skill sets to the table. While Bryant obviously represents the higher quality player in a variety of ways, the ways in which both could find a way to impact Game 7 in Cleveland on Wednesday night are countless. Bryant with the big power bat, Ramirez with the high contact ability. With perhaps only nine innings remaining in the 2016 Major League year, this will be one fun matchup in a multitude of things to watch in Wednesday’s final tilt.