July 23, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
69°F
test

Indians Commentary: Is Carlos Santana a really good hitter? Evidence says no

Carlos Santana points skyward after hitting a solo home run in the second inning on May 2. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Carlos Santana points skyward after hitting a solo home run in the second inning on May 2. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

I keep hearing that Carlos Santana is “a really good hitter,” and that “he’s going to hit.”

Indians general manager Chris Antonetti says it. So does reigning American League Manager of the Year Terry Francona, who has guided two teams to World Series titles.

It may be a sin to speak ill of the concussed, but I’ve covered Santana since he was acquired in a trade with the Dodgers for Casey Blake in 2008, and I’m here to tell you: Santana is not a “really good hitter” and hasn’t been since his days in the minor leagues.

Santana’s big league numbers support my case. Entering this season — his first as a full-time third baseman — Santana owned a career batting average of .254 over three-plus years in the majors.

If that’s a really good hitter, I’m a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. It sounds more like an average one to me.

Yes, Santana has displayed a knack for drawing walks during his time in the majors, ranking behind only Cincinnati’s Joey Votto with 281 walks from 2011-13, and has produced a respectable lifetime on-base percentage.

But that doesn’t translate into a really good hitter. He’s a mediocre one who has actually been pretty terrible this year.

Even before he got his bell rung by a foul ball off his mask in Baltimore that sent him to the seven-day DL with a concussion, Santana seemed lost at the plate, batting an unfathomably low .159 over 50 games.

There was talk of sending the cleanup hitter down to the minors before he was injured.
Playing a new position for the first time in his big league career might explain some of Santana’s offensive struggles, but let’s be clear here. Santana, with his big swing that isn’t geared for singles but is prone to strikeouts, is not a really good big league hitter — never has been and doesn’t look as though he ever will be.

Swish, shot?

For the second straight season first baseman Nick Swisher is dealing with injuries.

Swisher, who early last season had a shoulder issue he played through and elected not to have surgically repaired over the offseason, is on the disabled list with a hyperextended left knee. He’s also had soreness in his right knee.

So that explains another offensive slide for Swisher, who is hitting .211 with three home runs and 19 RBIs over 49 games, right? I’m sure the next two years of his four-year, $56 million contract will be filled with all sorts of personal success for a lifetime .255 hitter.

#Sarcasm.

Roundin’ third

Ripping the Indians’ deplorable defense seems like beating a dead horse, but it’s tough not to discuss when the team is averaging nearly an error per game and leading the majors in the category.

Though catcher Yan Gomes, who moved behind the plate because he appeared to be a much better defender than Santana, has been the main culprit, it’s been a comedy of errors by a cast of characters.

Francona has grown tired of talking about his club’s — well, tired — defense, claiming reporters are having fun discussing it at the Indians’ expense.

I will agree with the manager, the defense isn’t as bad as it’s looked through 50-plus games. It can’t be or these guys wouldn’t be in the big leagues.

The Indians don’t have terrible fielders. Then again, outside of left fielder Michael Brantley and center fielder Michael Bourn, they don’t have very many good ones, either.

Speaking of Brantley, let’s hope that if Cleveland gets its obligatory one representative in the upcoming All-Star Game in Minnesota, it’s him.

With All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis on the disabled list for a month and pretty much everyone around him slumping, Brantley has carried the offensive load. Entering Saturday, he led the Indians in batting average (.309), home runs (nine) and RBIs (39).

Among his competition of American League outfielders, Brantley ranked third in batting average, third in OPS (.889), third in extra-base hits (22) and first in RBIs.

Brantley’s top-shelf effort out of the gate has also included Gold Glove defense, with the left fielder, who has one error in 54 games, leading the majors with six outfielder assists.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

Like us on Facebook: