Edwin Encarnacion has finally arrived.
For two and a half months, a quiet kvetching murmured around Indiansdom. As the Tribe scuffled around .500 and somehow continued to trail the Minnesota Twins for the division crown, the big money man of the off-season, Edwin Encarnacion, was something less than special. The whole team was in an offensive (and defensive, and pitching) slump, not living up to what people expected, but when you get the bigest contract in team hisyory you get expected to do things. He hit the ball hard, it just went the wrong way. Jays fans, when asked about Edwin, kept saying "wait till it gets warmer". People waited. Spring stretched on. People waited more. It got warmer. Suddenly, that element we all wanted, the unabashed Fear of God in Pitchers, has arrived.
Looking back, it's a bit amazing nobody noticed his emerging. Like the first tremors of Mount Vesuvius, and American League pitching is Pompeii. We should have expected it, we’re just dumb. This is what Edwin evidently does. There were blips on the radar in mid-May. On the 14th of that month he was hitting a mere .198/.342/.328, and went on a bit of a tear the next eight games with a .250/.294/.688 mini-outburst. Goodness, but that slugging percentage. Maybe he was pressing, hence the low on-base percentage and average, but if that’s pressing he should keep doing it. It was a fun couple days. It included a two homer game and a couple of the hardest outs you’ve ever seen. Things were edging in the right direction.
After that, he had couple games with just some singles rattling around, and then something clicked. Since May 29th he's hit .353/.389/.676. His batting line for the year is .246/.354/.449 less than a month after sub-Mendoza hitting. And he did this:
Yes, it was foul. He did that in Houston a couple weeks ago too, almost hitting an old man in the upper deck. But that missile to the street wasn’t even the best part. The best part was this:
This is what we truly want. Shock. Awe. Horrified amazement. And this was on a foul ball. Tape measure shots by themselves are fun, sure. Like when he tried to kill those birds in the batters' eye in Progressive the other day:
Fear. That’s what he’s there for. It’s an unquantifiable, incredibly important part of sport. Even one as staid as baseball. The numbers are vital of course, but he’s a psychological weapon too. You can’t tell me the only purpose Miguel Cabrera serves is to get hits. He makes pitchers nervous. The Indians haven't had a menacing force in their lineup since maybe Travis Hafner, if that. They've had guys hit 30 home runs, including last year with Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli. Both are very strong men. But this is something else. This is silly, easy power that shows up all the time. Even his pop-ups go a mile. Add to that his stoicism.
The man never smiles, rarely frowns. He’s just elemental power. It's like pitchers are facing some sort of horrible rock golem. Pure, unabashed strength, took a bit to get going, and he emotionlessly brutalizes them into a (figurative) pulp. Now that he's taken to wearing mirrored wraparound shades, as he did when he hit that ball so hard the cow it came from mother felt it, he's even less human. Robot rock man? Sure, that’s something I’d not want to face in D&D. Or real life, I suppose. How did the Indians luck into such a force of nature? This is fun.