Carlos Santana's Poor Season Carrying Over to the Rest of the Indians Everyday Lineup
When you are second to last in a league in runs scored, there is clearly no one person to blame. It’s clearly a team effort.
We have pointed out in previous pieces that the Cleveland Indians have four positions (catcher and all three outfield spots) that rank in the bottom three in the American League in WAR.
The front office took a “wishin’ and hopin'” approach to the outfield during the off-season, and has paid the price for it.
Because of that, there is an enormous amount of pressure on the top five hitters in the batting order to produce.
Francisco Lindor, who has an OPS of 786, which is third on the team (behind Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes) has certainly heard his share of criticism because of his batting average with runners in scoring position. He is 9 for 51 with 13 RBI’s this year.
However, among those players being heavily counted upon by the Tribe this season, perhaps the most disappointing is 1B Carlos Santana.
The switch-hitter was coming off a career season, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by a drop off. And we don’t want to say Santana has no offensive value, because he leads the league in walks and still has a .355 on base percentage.
But his slugging percentage, a career high .515 in ’19 has dropped more than 200 points to .296 in this COVID shortened 2020 season.
We didn’t feel there would be a huge regression for Santana because he clearly changed his approach at the plate last season, going from a full out pull hitter to a player who used the middle of the field more and had more success.
And for all of Santana’s struggles, what does it say about the Indians’ management that they continue to hit him in the cleanup spot in the batting order, a position where power is most definitely needed.
This isn’t to denigrate Santana, who has been a very good player for the Cleveland franchise for ten years. He is starting to appear on the club’s all time top ten in several categories, including 8th in home runs (213, one behind Andre Thornton), 2nd in walks behind Jim Thome, and 10th in times getting on base.
However, it does point out two things.
First, the extreme amount of pressure the organization put on the top five in the batting order to produce. The Indians couldn’t afford any of them to have off years, and Santana has had one.
Second, the lack of depth on the roster, which doesn’t allow them to give the veteran switch-hitter to have a day off to refocus. Let’s say, the manager decides to play Josh Naylor at first base, who takes Naylor’s spot in the outfield? Or can you imagine the outrage on social media if they decided to play Mike Freeman at first?
Santana’s lack of production power wise does make it curious as to when the Indians decided to shuffle the lineup a bit, they left him in the #4 hole.
Why not move him up in the order? After all, he does get on base, even this season. As we said, he leads the league in walks.
We would have put him, not Lindor, in the leadoff spot, and shuffled from there. That would put an emphasis on what the hitter is doing well this season.
It also calls into question what the organization will do with the option on the first baseman’s contract for 2021 at $17.5 million.
We always figured the front office would try to restructure it, since Santana likes it in Cleveland, but now, even that should be up in the air.
We know Santana is a team player, and his struggles bother him to be sure. But quite frankly the Indians weren’t set up for an important player to have an off year.
And that’s troublesome in itself.