Part of me wants to make 20 “Black Magic Woman” jokes. Part of me wants to just post a picture of Casey Blake and laugh maniacally. But the baseball fan in me is winning, so today I want to talk about Carlos Santana’s first 35 games in the major leagues.
Now, from what you’re about to read, it’s going to sound like I think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but we’re too late for that; there’s already a young catcher with that claim to fame. I’m not suggesting that he’s as good as he’s played so far. I’m not suggesting that some of the “he’s on pace for…” statistics I’m about to deliver are anywhere near credible; I think we’re all smarter than that. I just want to demonstrate how remarkably good the 23-year old catcher has been so far.
Santana was called up on June 11th and was immediately inserted into the number 3 spot in the Tribe’s lineup. He went o for 3 with a walk (foreshadowing!) but followed it up the next night with a home run and a double. The Indians were 23-36 before Santana joined the team and are 17-18 since. He’s started 34 of the 35 games, 31 at catcher and 3 at DH, and pinch-hit in the 35th game.
In his 35 games, Santana has a slash line of 0.292/0.443/0.566. Hint: that’s a good start. He’s got 6 home runs and 13 doubles in 113 at-bats; couple that with 32 walks against only 20 strikeouts in 149 plate appearances and you’ve got a really valuable hitter. His batting value by number of runs is 13.7, which puts him 45th in the major leagues; remember, he didn’t play the first two months. That same number is already second amongst catchers, behind only Geovany Soto.
His 21.5% walk rate is out-of-control good for a rookie, and it might not be a complete fluke. His minor league walk rates were in the mid-teens, and his strikeout rates were around the 17.7% he’s posting now. His HR/FB% is 15.0%, which seems slightly high, but isn’t unreasonable. He’s seeing 4.28 pitcher per plate appearance, which would put him 15th in the major leagues.
His weighted on-base average is 0.435, which places him fourth in baseball amongst hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. He’s behind Josh Hamilton, Justin Morneau, and Miguel Cabrera, and just ahead of Joey Votto, Kevin Youkilis, and Albert Pujols.
In 35 games, he’s been worth 2.2 wins; on a 162-game pace, that would be 10.2 wins above replacement. That’s MVP territory. Remember, I’m not saying it will continue, just that what he’s done shouldn’t be overshadowed by what’s happening by other rookies in Washington and San Francisco. Amongst catchers, he’s fifth in WAR, behind Miguel Olivo, Brian McCann, Soto, and Joe Mauer.
Basically he’s doing everything a hitter is supposed to, and he’s 23 years old and in his first month plus in the big leagues.
The major question mark when he was called up was whether he was ready to be a major league catcher defensively. It seems as though he’s met the challenge to this point. The following table shows the statistics of Tribe pitchers with the four different catchers used so far. Now, I’m not big on “the catcher directly affects the pitching staff” stuff, particularly because there’s no evidence to suggest that such a correlation exists. But it certainly seems like Santana isn’t hurting anything at the very least.
I love Carlos Santana because he’s fun to watch hit (he takes some man-sized swings) and he’ll be an Indian (hopefully still hurting baseballs) until he’s at least 30. It’s fun when one of the best prospects in a sport bursts onto the scene for your team and crushes initial expectations. Let’s hope Santana never does this.
Lastly, just because it’s fun:
Miss you Casey.