What more can Carlos Santana do to convince fans of the Cleveland Indians to love him?
He has played in 87 of 88 games, transitioned into one of the most dangerous lead-off hitters in baseball, accepted limited time at first base despite out-playing Mike Napoli defensively, continued his ascension as an elite baserunner, and provided the most power of his entire career. Even the most ardent Santana supporters have been impressed by the new heights he has achieved from the batter's box. Yet, there remains a vocal base of detractors as he remains one of the more polarizing players on the Tribe.
Well, as was done in Spring Training, WFNY is giving you an opportunity to relinquish whatever baggage is holding you back from running full-speed towards Santana and jumping into his welcoming arms. Maybe it was his ill-fated duty of replacing Victor Marrtinez, initial struggles on defense and baserunning, the impossible standard his rookie season set for himself, or perhaps other sabremetric-reliant fans have turned you away from Santana. Regardless, the 2016 All-Star break is your opportunity to reassess your relationship and fully embrace one of the Indians most gifted hitters.
2016 Performance Boost
Baseball Prospectus and others (see: Spring Training article) noted he was a bounceback candidate based on the Statcast and other data. Thus far, Santana has made the prognosticators look quite intelligent as he has raked. Or, perhaps the move to the lead-off position in the lineup has suited the mindset of Santana. Either way, the only thing any fan of the Indians should be thinking about in relation to Santana's first half is "More, please."
While Santana's gift of obtaining a high on base percentage has stayed about the same, he has increased his output nearly across the board. He has already surpassed his 2015 total in home runs, baserunning, and nearly fWAR (which is his value to the team). The increase in batting average (up 22 points) and power (SLG% up 102 points!) has helped change his overall batting profile back to a fringe All-Star type hitter (126 wRC+).
2016 Team and League Ranks
So, Santana has improved upon what was a poor 2015 season for him, but does that mean he is actually any good? After all, plenty of fans were frustrated with his season and could shrug their shoulders at improvement. I mean, he should have improved, right?
Well, Santana not only has improved his previous season, but he has proven himself as a Top 20 to 25 hitter in the American League. Since there are only 15 teams in the league that means he would be about the second-best hitter on an average offense. He has hit for power, demonstrated abilities on the basepaths, and been able to show overall value at the plate. On the Indians, he would be considered ranked even higher than the consistent Top 3 scores above, but Tyler Naquin's non-qualified statistics were used. At worst, Santana has been the second best hitter on the Tribe.
A perceptive fan might notice the vines of Santana throughout this article are all high leverage situations where Santana has come through in the clutch. Well, those are merely anecdotal evidence. The WPA and Clutch columns are the proof of Santana's clutch prowess in 2016. Those numbers measure situational baseball. Higher numbers tell us which players have been put in high leverage (aka clutch) situations and come through the most often for their teams.
As such, Carlos Santana has added the 11th most win probability of any hitter in the AL (and most on the Indians) as well as having the 17th best clutch score. So when the game is on the line, no hitter on the Indians has done better than Carlos Santana.
Indians Franchise Leaderboard
Carlos Santana continues to climb the Cleveland Indians franchise leaderboard. Most notably from his first half performance, Santana has jumped to 14th on the All-time home run list just two less than Grady Sizemore and 14 shy of Joe Carter. Yes, it is quite possible that Santana overtakes Carter in home runs by the end of this season.
Also of note, Santana is about to run past a bunch of luminaries on the All-time doubles list. Julio Franco (189), Larry Doby (190), Carlos Baerga (190), Victor Martinez (191), Brook Jacoby (192), and Michael Brantley (192) are all within reach of Santana in July. By the end of the season, Santana should find himself just behind Grady Sizemore (216) and Jack Graney (219).
And, with the big first half, Santana has positioned himself to still be considered among the Top 20 hitters in Indians franchise history once the Tribe picks up his 2017 option.
Go ahead and delete the mean tweets and disparaging remarks left in the comment fields and forums throughout the Indians internet world you left about Carlos Santana. Don't worry, no judgement here. Except when noting that Carlos Santana is an Indians player worth cheering.