Santana Continues to Walk The Line of Superstardom
Danny Madden | On 16, Mar 2015
If Carlos Santana wasn’t a fan of his musical counterpart, then he should at least be a fan of Johnny Cash.
As Cash states in his song, “I Walk the Line,” Santana also shows how good he is at taking a walk or two throughout the season. In 2014, he did it 113 times, in which he led all of MLB. Santana has always had good plate discipline, it’s probably his strongest and most consistent quality about him. In 2014, he had a 17.1% walk percentage, and prior to that he never had a walk percentage lower than 14.5%. It’s safe to say that Santana knows how to take a pitch or two.
He has been criticized in the past though for how often he walks, just like Joey Votto for the Reds. Santana has been the primary cleanup hitter for the last few seasons. He’s a switch hitter who has a ton of power, and has great discipline. This has worked well for Santana for the most part, but when there’s someone on base and the team could use a clutch hit to drive him home, there have been times when Santana ended up walking instead. Now, this isn’t entirely a bad thing, but it wasn’t helping out the team last year when the primary hitter behind Santana was Jason Kipnis.
Due to the oblique injury that plagued Kipnis for most of the season, he wasn’t able to supply much support to the often patient cleanup hitter. 2015 should prove to be a different story for Santana. With the acquisition of 1B/RF Brandon Moss, who is projected to most likely bat fifth behind Santana, pitchers will have to be even more careful when they’re facing him. Unlike in 2014, if Santana ends up walking on base, they’ll have to face Moss who is very likely to drive a ball out of the park. If a pitcher decides to try to be more aggressive to Santana though instead of just trying to walk him, Santana is just as likely to provide the power to bring in more RBI as well. This creates a tricky situation for the opposing pitcher, but an advantage to Santana as he’s more likely to see more pitches that he can drive.
After the acquisition of Moss though, it’s possible that Santana could see more time batting second in the order. Last season, we saw players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Jose Ramirez, and Kipnis all bat second. Kipnis in 2013 was the perfect type of player to bat second, but I think Santana fits the role even more. His ability to get on base would be huge for that number two spot. That would allow Michael Brantley to drive him in, or allow Moss to have a shot as well. This would also create a situation where you have Brantley hitting third and Moss cleaning up, which is back-to-back lefties in the lineup, which manager Terry Francona tends to avoid. The chances of Santana batting second often is slim, but it should still be considered a possibility.
In 2014, Santana tied his career high amount of homers with 27, and set a career high in RBI with 85. This may look all nice and pretty, but let’s not forget the kind of first half that Santana had last year. The one where he only hit .151 with only 3 home runs in April, and then followed that with a .169 batting average with 3 more homers in May. Only to be followed with a second half where he hit .260 with 13 homers to go along with his 14 homers from the first half. To say that Santana had a roller coaster season would be an understatement.
We’ve got to remember though that Santana was trying to also play third base during the first half of the season, which turned out to be a failed experiment.
Now that he is firmly locked in at first base, as he proved to play that position smoothly after Swisher was eventually removed from it, he seems to show more comfort at the plate. Going into 2015, the only other player on the team that may show significant time at first would be Moss, and maybe some with Swisher. This is only going to help Santana concentrate and focus on producing.
Also, Santana only had five errors in 94 games at first, while he had six errors in 26 games at third. Swisher had nine errors in 52 games. The Indians will be greatly benefiting from seeing more of Santana at first this season.
By looking into Santana’s stats last season, it seems that Santana could be on the verge of a breakout year. His ISO has been slightly increasing for the last three years (.168 in 12, .187 in 13, and .196 in 14). Also, his BABIP dropped 52 points between 2013 and 2014. That shows that not only did he get a little unlucky last year, but his power has also been increasing. Even after the horrendous first half that Santana had, he was still able to turn things around and put up a solid and powerful year for the Tribe.
If he can continue to produce to the level he did in the second half of 2014, this could end up being the year that Santana finally becomes the All-Star that the Tribe has been waiting to see emerge.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer