Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
At 31-31, the Cleveland Indians haven’t quite lived up to expectations that were set after they reached the wild card round of the playoffs last season, especially considering it took a really solid 7-3 stretch to get them to this point. They’re still just four games out at this point, though, but a much larger issue for the Tribe than their current standing in the American League Central is the status of slugger Carlos Santana.
The numbers to this point in the season don’t paint the prettiest of pictures for the Indians’ third baseman. Coming off of a very solid year in which he slashed .268/.377/.455/.832, swatted 20 home runs, and went for a career-best 3.6 WAR, Santana has battled some nagging injuries while struggling to stay even near the Mendoza line.
Looking at what Santana has managed to do this season, there are some strange things happening in his stat line. He’s only hitting .171 on the year, yet is reaching base at a more than respectable .342 clip. While he’s striking out at a rate of 20.2 percent of the time, he’s also walking at the same exact rate. He’s reaching base via the free pass once every five at bats, which is absolutely absurd and easily the highest rate in the league. We also have to consider the fact that his BABIP on the year is just .188. It’s tough to lean on that figure as a sort of end-all, be-all and dismiss a player as simply being unlucky as the source of his woes, but in the case of Carlos Santana, that appears to be absolutely true.
He has been mighty unlucky this year. His contact rate is down just three percent and his swinging strike rate is almost identical to what it was last year, so there’s no reason to think that he’s doing anything that differently to cause his numbers to be so low. The very good news for Santana is the early results from his recent concussion-related stint on the disabled list have been very good.
He’s reached base six times in eight plate appearances, three of those being walks, and has already driven both his average and his OBP up 12 points. Given that his struggles early on in the season didn’t necessarily relate to mechanical issues and were more the result of some bad luck, this recent DL stretch appears to have given him some time to clear his mind and he looks to be regaining confidence as a result. At least, that’s what has been indicated by the small sample size this weekend.
With the Tribe experiencing a bit of an upswing in their play, having won seven of 10, Carlos Santana catching fire would give the Indians exactly what they need to challenge the Detroit Tigers as we head deeper into the month of June.