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The impact of Edwin Encarnacion’s new home

The high-dollar newcomer isn’t having the instant impact some wanted. But it’s looking alright at least.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cleveland Indians are on offense each game, there's a glut of fun guys to watch ply their craft at the plate. Michael Brantley and his sweet, smooth swing. Francisco Lindor and his... everything. Carlos Santana's bizarrely amazing eye, or for that matter Roberto Perez's which makes no sense. Kipnis's stance. Then there's Edwin Encarnacion.

There is no more potential in the Tribe lineup than Encarnacion for a truly wow moment. The Indians haven't had power like his since a younger Jim Thome, or Travis Hafner for 18 months. Unfortunately, right now all that power is rendered potential, not realized. It's his first year playing half his games in Cleveland rather than that homer dome in Toronto. I got to wondering, what if it's the park?

It can't be that easy to explain away performance woes of course, but look no further than Colorado to see how a park can impact a career. Throughout the ‘90s, guys like Dante Bichette made names for themselves there without actually being that good. BIchette was second in MVP voting in 1995, yet was worth 1.1 bWAR. On the flip side, Larry Walker still isn’t in the Hall of Fame at least partially because of the park. He was objectively incredible, but bias is a bastard sometimes.

The Rogers Centre has always been friendly to right-handed hitters, and in general has had a 120 Home Run Park Factor over the last six years, according to ParkFactors.com. That means 120 homers have been hit here for every 100 home runs hit at a theoretical average park. Progressive Field is pretty neutral, with a 101 Home Run Park Factor. Since 2011, his first full season with the Toronto Blue Jays, through 2016 Encarnacion hit 106 of his 210 home runs at the Rogers Centre. His production has been quite even. He also got to hit at Yankee Stadium (128 Home Run Park Factor) and Camden Yards (122) a bunch due to unbalanced scheduling, though Fenway Park (90) and Tropicana Field (89) helped offset that to a degree. All told, he lived in a generally home run-happy world. Now he's in the Central, and along with Progressive being dead average for home runs, he's got Chicago (125), Detroit (96), Kansas City (86) and Minnesota (89). Outside of Guaranteed Rate Field, it's a division that tamps down on the dinger.

Is that a real problem considering his power? Well, here' s Encarnacion's spray chart from this season, overlayed on Rogers Centre.

Baseball Savant

While much of this is inexact, and at least one of those deep outs were done in another park, theoretically those hits that would be home runs add 11 total bases to Encarnacion's season total. That would bring his slugging percentage to a flat .400, his home run total to a much more setting-at-ease eight (on pace for 40ish) and only a batting average to really complain about. And nobody is going to listen, anyway. No, the .400 slugging is not what anyone wants out of Encarnacion. With those theoretical adjusted numbers he'd be around Yan Gomes' 110 wRC+, still a far cry from the 134 of a year ago or the much more ideal (and likely unrealistic) 150 from 2015.

This isn't to say the signing is a total debacle. Every peripheral we have to look at tells us that Encarnacion is having a fine year. His 41.1 percent hard hit rate is the highest in his career, his launch angles have held steady from years prior, he's walking at a career high 15.7 percent clip. By Statcast's xwOBA — which states what his wOBA should be based on launch angles, exit velocities, and plays made on the ball — gives us .364. While not otherworldly, it is his career average wOBA, and is the second highest xwOBA on the team behind Francisco Lindor. Ideally you don't want your giant slugger to be posting lower offensive numbers as your slick fielding shortstop, but Lindor is his own special kind of magic.

There will be a turn. He’s hitting the ball real hard and doing everything he does well even better than before. Obviously he took the place of Mike Napoli, who was an immense player for the Tribe both emotionally and statistically (for two-thirds of the season).

But I expect this is the worst of Edwin Encarnacion. I have to believe that because he’s been so mightily powerful in the past and because I trust the front office of the Indians. They’re pretty smart guys. Their underlings keep getting hired away. That can’t be by accident. While the worst of his predecessor was “worst player in baseball”, at least at his worst Edwin is still getting on base and striking some fear into pitchers. Aura has to count for something, right? Plus he still gives viewers that electric jolt every time he takes to the plate.

Edwin will get used to his new home sooner or later and start posting big time numbers. You just have to wonder if he misses his own friendly confines.