XBH machine Ramirez building AL MVP case

XBH machine Ramirez building AL MVP case

CLEVELAND -- Jose Ramirez made sure to pick the white hat for Friday night. He has different colors to match different outfits, but he was wearing a white designer tee that had wings spread across his chest. On the front of the personalized lid was a cartoon panda, complete with a shock of red hair that resembled Ramirez's look.

Ramirez is as flashy off the field as he is on it for the Indians, and his style has the infielder in the thick of the debate for the American League's Most Valuable Player Award. During Friday's 10-1 rout of the White Sox at Progressive Field, Ramirez churned out two doubles, collected three hits, drew a walk, knocked in two runs and scored two more. And he did all that in only five innings.

"He's a heck of a player," said Indians manager Terry Francona, whose team has 101 wins and sits one victory shy of clinching home-field advantage on the AL side of the postseason bracket. "He just continues to hit doubles, hit the ball in the gap, play good defense, run the bases. It's fun to watch him. He's turned himself into a terrific player."

Ramirez now leads the AL in both doubles (55) and extra-base hits (90), and he joined George Burns (64 in 1926) and Tris Speaker (59 in '23) as the only players in Indians history with at least 55 doubles in a season. The switch-hitting Ramirez is also the fourth player in club history with 90 extra-bases in a single campaign, joining Grady Sizemore (2006), Albert Belle ('95) and Hal Trosky ('36).

This season will go down as one of the best all-around offensive showings in Cleveland's long, storied history. What will be determined by a select number of voters in the voting body of the Baseball Writers' Association of America is where Ramirez will fall in the AL MVP conversation. The four front-runners at the moment appear to be Jose Altuve of the Astros, Aaron Judge of the Yankees, Mike Trout of the Angels and Ramirez.

"I feel really happy that people are talking like that, and speaking so highly of me," Ramirez said through team interpreter, Anna Bolton. "But, in reality, it really doesn't matter. I'm just focused on winning games and winning a World Series with my team."

The AL MVP race is so close that the votes will likely come down to personal preference.

Altuve is on target to win the batting crown and has already surpassed 200 hits this season for the AL West-champion Astros. Judge boasts the most home runs (51) and the best WAR (8.1, per Fangraphs) in one of the greatest rookie performances in history. Trout headed into Friday with the AL's best on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.629) and was pacing AL hitters in Win Probability Added (5.61) and weighted Runs Created Plus (181).

With Friday's performance, Ramirez improved his season slash line to .317/.370/.583 in 150 games. He has 29 home runs and six triples to go with the doubles, along with 16 steals, 83 RBIs and 106 runs. Ramirez is also one of the hardest players in the AL to strikeout (one per 9.4 plate appearances), and he has bounced between second and third base, as needed, all season long.

"I think that Jose is playing as well as anybody," Indians right fielder Jay Bruce said. "And it remains to be seen who is going to end up being the MVP, but he's done everything he can to cement himself in the conversation. I think that is impressive in itself."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.