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A three year Indians review: Catcher

A three year Indians review: Catcher
July 30, 2013
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Now it's time for the fifth part in this series where I hope to show just what a crazy talent Carlos Santana has become. I know a lot of people see the batting average and bad defense and think he is just an average player, but any team in baseball would love to have him. There  is no doubt that he is a top five player at his position.

For references, here are links to the previous pieces in this series: first basesecond baseshortstop, and third base.

Slash Lines

2011 - Carlos Santana .230/363/.418 355 PA
2012 - Carlos Santana .221/.339/.336 295 PA
2013 - Carlos Santana .275/.382/.466 361 PA

It is not hard to see that Santana is having his best year to date as every number is up.  He should have been an All Star as he beats Salvador Perez is every stat in the slash line and his OPS is 138 points higher.  There are only five catchers in baseball with an OPS over .800 and Santana is one of them - Buster Posey leads the group. I think Santana is incredibly underrated and might even be by his own manager who keeps him hitting 6th in spite of his numbers.

Last year his numbers took a major tumble, and I wonder how much he was pressing last year after the big new contract.  Nick Swisher has admitted to pressing this year to prove he was worth his deal, so I have to wonder if it was the same for Santana last year.

WAR

For this stat, remember anything below 0 is below replacement level, 2+ is a starter, 5+ an All Star:

2011 - Carlos Santana 1.6
2012 - Carlos Santana .6
2013 - Carlos Santana 1.9

Here is the stat that will hurt Santana a bit because it takes defense into account. Yet, he is still a top five player by WAR right now in all of baseball. His defense is below average but does not take him out of the upper tier of catchers. This has been by far his worst season as a defender and yet thanks to his offense it is still the best WAR of his career. I don't know if he will ever be a league average defender, but what he gives you offensively is extremely rare for the position.

wRC+

For this stat, remember 100 is average and 120 is great as it means the player produces 20% more runs than your average starter:

2011 - Carlos Santana 119
2012 - Carlos Santana 93
2013 - Carlos Santana 138

Santana is producing at 40% better than league average when it comes to run production for his position. His numbers would be good anywhere, but at catcher they are off the charts. The only players better than him are the trinity of catching stars Joe MauerYadier Molina, and Posey.

Santana is knocking on joining that company and all three of those players are MVP candidates.  Yet, this is still a guy who many fans think is a bit of a disappointment. He is basically a guy nontraditional stats love. Here is another one: he is third in all of baseball in pitches per at bat. He just makes pitchers work every time he steps up to the plate.

I think this is clearly Santana's best performance to date, and makes this another easy win as far as positional upgrades go for the Indians in 2013 as they are now 3-1-1 so far in this review. Santana alone doubled the wRC+ and nearly doubled the WAR totals of the previous five positions combined from last year, that is how much he improved since July of last year. Hopefully this piece sheds some light and people really begin to appreciate how good Santana is and that in spite of his short comings he is still a top five guy for his position.

Also here is the compiled WAR and wRC+ for this team vs. 2011 and 2013:

2011 vs. 20013: WAR +3.1 wRC+ +93
2012 vs. 2013: WAR + 2.8  wRC+ +82

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at jellis121@yahoo.com

User Comments

Discollama
August 1, 2013 - 12:19 AM EDT
Santana isn't a top 5 player by WAR, right now his WAR places him 8th among C's, and out of all position players, he ranks 70th overall. This is still a terrific player to have, but he's not so highly ranked as you say
Jeff
July 31, 2013 - 11:00 PM EDT
I believe it was tonight
Tony
July 31, 2013 - 10:22 AM EDT
Yep, at this point Gomes/Raburn should get the at bats that Reynolds was getting. Have Raburn DH when Santana catches and have Santana DH when Gomes catches......and of course there are many different concoctions you can use with Santana/Swisher at first and Raburn/Stubbs/Swisher in RF.
Matthew
July 31, 2013 - 10:18 AM EDT
It is amazing to me that Indians fans continue to be sour on Carlos. His defense is a solid tick below average, but his offensive production from behind the plate is incredible. Most teams are lucky to get a guy who hits .220 and gets on base at .300. Santana's offensive production completely negates any deficiencies on defense.

Now, as well as Gomes has played this year, the Indians have an embarrassment of riches at Catcher and are lucky to have the option to put Carlos at 1B/DH more often to mitigate his defensive shortcomings. The front office knows this and that's why we've seen Gomes' playing time greatly increased in the last few weeks.

I think there is a distinct likelihood that Yan Gomes will be the everyday catcher for the Indians next year.
Tony
July 31, 2013 - 9:48 AM EDT
I'll give you that Santana is rough around the edges, but he's been solid in the clutch this year:

Runners on: .329 AVG, .986 OPS
Runners in scoring position: .293 AVG, .989 OPS
Bases loaded: .667 AVG, 1.700 OPS
Runners in scoring position 2 outs: .283 AVG, .964 OPS
League Park
July 31, 2013 - 8:48 AM EDT
you must be Santana's agent. His defense stinks and his situational hitting is poor. When was his last big hit?
Nate
July 30, 2013 - 7:30 PM EDT
Thanks Jeff. This is the first of these articles that I have read and I didn't realize it was a first half comparison. Sorry about that.
Jeff
July 30, 2013 - 6:03 PM EDT
fangraphs partial years statistics
http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=1b&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=100&type=8&season=2011&month=30&season1=2011&ind=0&team=5&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0
Smooth
July 30, 2013 - 5:01 PM EDT
Maybe he's talking about the guitar player?
Nate
July 30, 2013 - 4:44 PM EDT
Just curious where you're getting these stats from? They don't look anything like what I'm looking at for Carlos.

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