Carlos Santana was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers in August of 2004. Four years later, he would be traded to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for veteran third baseman Casey Blake. Minus a short one-year stint with the Philadelphia Phillies (no, his 30 seconds in Seattle do not count here), he has lived out a long career with the Tribe that has blossomed into something special this season.
During his first stint in Cleveland, Santana became well known for his ability to draw walks. His patience at the dish was impeccable, and he had a knack for sticking to a plan and finding his pitch. However, perhaps Carlos was a bit too patient. Santana’s batting average never eclipsed .270 in Cleveland, and dipped to .231 for consecutive seasons in 2014 and 2015. Still, patience (as well as versatility in the field) helped him keep his starting spot with the Indians. It helped him to lead the league in walks in 2014 and keep his on-base percentage reputable. Last year with the Phillies, Santana’s average dropped to a career low .229.
Hitting for Average
This season could be considered a miracle if we’re being honest. Santana’s average at the dish sits at .292 currently, well above his previous career high of .268 back in 2013. That year the Indians hosted the AL Wild Card game and were blanked 4-0 by Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays. Safe to say, Carlos hopes this year will end differently.
He is on pace to shatter almost every career high in terms of hitting statistics. Yes, that includes walks! Looking at his StatCast, the percentage of pitches he barrels up is a career high 10.0% this season. His hard hit percentage is also at a career high of 44.4%. He seems like a much more balanced hitter this year, using all parts of the field to spray his hits.
Santana earned a spot in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star festivities this past July. As someone who saw it live in Cleveland, it was a truly special scene at Progressive Field. He was eliminated by eventual champion Pete Alonso in the first round, but do not let that distract you from Santana’s power at the dish. He’s at 29 home runs right now, on pace to break his career high of 34.
Carlos has logged 203 career home runs in an Indians uniform. His 199th and 200th were both impactful. The first would give the Tribe a share of the AL Central with the Minnesota Twins.
The second would give Cleveland sole control of the Central. Well, briefly anyways.
In case you were wondering just how impressive that burst of “clutch-ness” was from Carlos, check this out.
Home Away From Home
Santana is not from Cleveland. He was born in the Dominican Republic. However, his adoration for northeast Ohio could have you fooled. Following Cleveland’s loss to the Houston Astros in the 2018 ALDS, Santana said after the game he hoped that would not be his last game in an Indians uniform.
2019 has given Carlos plenty more games, and he has taken full advantage. In an interview back in late June, Santana said he was happy to be wearing the block “C” again. He admitted to crying on the flight where he found out he would be a starter in the 2019 All-Star Game, his first career All-Star appearance. Santana earned the honor to represent the Tribe in front of a raucous, faithful Cleveland crowd. It must have been special for him.
March to October
The Indians should be grateful for Santana just as much as he is grateful for them. In the early portions of this season, Cleveland was putrid offensively. The Indians were in the bottom third in just about everything hitting-wise, and featured lineups that contained Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. Unfortunately, this is no longer 2013, or even 2016 for that matter. Santana helped keep the Tribe offense afloat in a way they desperately needed. Now with Jose Ramirez back to his usual self and the rest of the offense heating up, Carlos’ production is gravy.
In a tight divisional race with the Twins, Cleveland will need Santana to stay hot in order to help clinch a playoff spot. Even if it’s a wild card spot, they will take it. With Carlos already hitting .377 in August, it seems the Indians can rely on him when the colder months hit and things really start to matter. As if they already don’t.
Author Twitter: @Noush9602
Come discuss this topic and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!