Less than a month into the 2014 season and a growing amount of people want to see Cleveland Indians third baseman Carlos Santana lose the fourth spot on the lineup card. This is a dangerous contention to assert four weeks into April to alter the center piece of the current batting order. The catcher turned third basemen has proved through previous slumps that he is far too capable to keep this ongoing trend alive much longer.
How quickly people forget the hand that feeds them. Once upon a time, Santana existed as an immortal figure within the Tribe lineup, producing on a consistent basis accruing an 11.9 WAR in his first four seasons. That script has been put into question in the early goings of the 2014 season, as Santana has failed to hit averaging .128 and slugging .205 with just one home run.
All precursors point at this current lull in production simply passing through as a faze. Anybody watching can tell he is hitting the ball square through his patience at the plate; the leather just isn’t falling safely. The third baseman’s BABIP sits at .158 (.300 average), a tale that will predictably change in the 28 year old’s favor.
Santana has still gotten on-base at an overwhelming rate in the first 23 games with 21 walks (21.2 BB percent). Despite a destitute .128 batting average, Santana still has still managed to earn a .313 OBP. The untrained eye may not have noticed the Dominican’s advanced plate discipline in 2014. There is no doubt that Santana has been more selective at the plate, only swinging at 36.3 percent of pitches (46 percent league average). His eyes haven’t deceived him either, offering at just 18.3 percent of balls outside the strike zone (30 percent league average), while that number sat at 25.8 percent in 2013.
You would assume the opposition would take notice of this elevated discipline, as Santana has seen 46.5 percent of pitches going for first pitch strikes while 2013 saw that number at 56.1 percent. Opposing pitchers haven’t fallen into the moment, attacking Santana as if his ability plays anywhere close to his recent output. Reinforced by the reassurance he received from manager Terry Francona, Santana has demonstrated his value offensively to be able to maintain the cleanup role.
Those in favor of placing the red hot Michael Brantley in the esteemed position are forgetting a key concept that three of the first four batters would be left-handed, unhinging the balance of the order. Last season alone outweighs the theory that Santana is unfit for the duties in the four hole, as eight series worth of slumping can’t be enough to dethrone 2013’s team leader in OBP, OPS, wOBA and wRC+ among qualified hitters.