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2012 in Review: Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana was one of the few Indians who had an excellent second half in 2012, though unfortunately that came after a poor first half. A look at Santana's season, as well as his future at catcher or perhaps first base.

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Bats: Both Throws: Right

2012 Age: 26

2012 oWAR (B-Ref): 3.6

2012 WAR (Fangraphs): 3.4

2012 Salary: $501,900 (Extension signed in April 2012)

2013 Salary: $550,000

Carlos Santana was one of the best hitting catchers in the American League in 2012 thanks largely to a very good second half of the season. Of catchers who had at least 400 plate appearances, he tied with A.J. Pierzynski for third place according to FanGraph's WAR calculation (which includes defense), and second place in B-Ref's oWAR (which doesn't count defense).

For a while, though, Santana looked like he was going to be a major disappointment in 2012. Although the Indians were still in contention as the first half of the season ended, they were doing it in spite of Santana, for Carlos was hitting .221/.339/.336, not Kotchman-awful only because he was taking walks. The big concern was that he just wasn't hitting for power; the Indians were counting on him to be one the few legitimate home run threats in the lineup, and that wasn't happening.

As you see in the graph below, he was a bit unlucky with BABIP, but that didn't really explain his struggles at the plate. It was more a problem with his approach.

1st Half 295 244 31 54 13 0 5 30 2 1 46 60 .221 .339 .336 .675 .266 73 89
2nd Half 314 263 41 74 14 2 13 46 1 4 45 41 .281 .389 .498 .887 .288 125 145
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2012.

As you see in the graph below, he was a bit unlucky with BABIP, but that didn't really explain his struggles at the plate. It was more a problem with his approach:

I feel more comfortable," Santana said. "I know I didn't have a good first half, but I think I've come in more comfortable and more focused in the second half.

"Early in the season, I had problems with swinging too hard and trying too much. Right now, I'm taking it easier and trying to just make contact with the ball."

The Indians tweaked his swing, attempting to limit his movement at the plate, and it seemed to pay off. As most of the rest of the club collapsed in the second half of the season, Santana was at his best, posting a .972 OPS in July, .803 in August, and .863 in September. By the end of the season, his offensive numbers looked very close to those of 2011, his breakout season.

Santana will probably not hit for a high average given his approach at the plate, but that's ok. He improved his SO/BB ratio in 2012, walking 91 times and striking out 101 times. He swung at 21.4% of balls outside the zone (O-Swing%) one of the lowest percentages in the majors in 2012 (only Alberto Callaspo and Kevin Youkilis were better). Santana's overall swing percentage was also one of the lowest in the majors at 39.1%. Santana's problem is taking strikes, and not making contact within the strike zone. As a left-handed hitter, he was particularly susceptible to the comeback fastball on the inside corner of the plate. That's something that's more correctable than not laying off a breaking ball out of the strike zone, and Santana has been able to make adjustments to how pitchers are attacking him, as we saw in the second half.

Santana didn't have much of a split batting right-handed versus left-handed, hitting for about equal power from both sides. But he was a lot more selective as a right-handed hitter, walking 34 times and striking out 26 times.

From the defensive side, was fine with throwing runners out (26% - league average was 25%), but he had problems with passed balls, leading the league with 10 of them. Granted, he was catching both Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, two of the wildest pitchers in captivity, but he's going to have to improve in his plate blocking skills in order to stick behind the plate.

Santana is one of the few Indians who are already signed for the 2013 season; he signed a contract extension this past spring that would take him through his arbitration years, and if the Indians pick up his 2017 option, would keep him on the club into one free agent year.

The Indians have a problem at first base, so a tempting option would be to give Santana more at-bats there in 2013, but that just moves the offensive hole around a bit. Lou Marson in his limited time in the lineup hit .226/.348/.287, and although you like the plate discipline, he's hit for almost no power in his career. If the Indians try to move Santana to first, they'd have to bring in a starting catcher. But it's much more likely that they leave Santana where he is, and use him at first base or DH to give him days off from catching.

Career Stats

2010 24 CLE AL 46 192 150 23 39 13 0 6 22 3 0 37 29 .260 .401 .467 .868 143
2011 25 CLE AL 155 658 552 84 132 35 2 27 79 5 3 97 133 .239 .351 .457 .808 126
2012 26 CLE AL 143 609 507 72 128 27 2 18 76 3 5 91 101 .252 .365 .420 .785 122
3 Yrs 344 1459 1209 179 299 75 4 51 177 11 8 225 263 .247 .363 .443 .806 127
162 Game Avg. 162 687 569 84 141 35 2 24 83 5 4 106 124 .247 .363 .443 .806 127
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2012.