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July's Defensive Player of the Month: Alexei Ramirez

Getty Images, AP Photo

We can sum up Alexei Ramirez’s defense at shortstop for the Chicago White Sox this month in one word. As White Sox television announcer Hawk Harrelson would say: "Mercy!"

Ramirez is the SweetSpot Defensive Player of the Month for July. He joins Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (April and May) and Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier (June) as winners this season.

Baseball Info Solutions credited Ramirez with a major league best 22 Good Fielding Plays this month. That was nine more than the shortstop with the next most (Jose Iglesias had 13). He took the lead on Iglesias for most Good Fielding Plays by a shortstop, and now has a 48-40 advantage. Ramirez’s four Web Gems in July tied Kolten Wong for the MLB lead.

Why were Ramirez’s contributions important? The White Sox had the most defensive runs saved in July (without accounting for shifts) with 17. They had their lowest ERA for a calendar month this season (3.29) by far. From April to June, the White Sox turned 70 percent of ground balls into outs. The only team that ranked worse was the Phillies. In July, the White Sox upped that to 73 percent, which ranked middle of the pack (16th).

Ramirez still has a ways to go to get back to the form he’s previously shown. From 2010 to 2012, he had 44 Defensive Runs Saved. The only player with more was Brendan Ryan. Since then, Ramirez has faltered. He was credited with one Defensive Run Saved in 2013 and minus-4 in 2014. He entered July with minus-6 Defensive Runs Saved.

But at least for one month, he was able to turn back the clock, as you'll see with plays like this one.

Honorable mentions: Two other players were strongly considered for the award. Houston Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus finished with a major league-high 10 Defensive Runs Saved in July. Half of those were attributed to the value of his throwing arm (which you can see in action here). His four outfield assists were tied for third-most this month. Rasmus’ eight Good Fielding Plays tied J.D. Martinez and Kevin Kiermaier for most in the majors in July. Rasmus’ defense is what’s keeping him afloat these days. He hit .192 with 26 strikeouts in 22 games for the month.

Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang also was award-worthy. Kang led all position players in Wins Above Replacement in July, and his game featured a terrific combination of offense and defense. Kang hit .379 and had a 1.064 OPS, more than 300 points higher than his OPS from April to June. He’s filled in capably for two injured regulars -- Josh Harrison at third base, where he had five Defensive Runs Saved, and Jordy Mercer at shortstop, where he had two Defensive Runs Saved. His seven Defensive Runs Saved were the most for any infielder in July.