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Edwin Encarnacion is just fine

Those dang April “ease into the season” stretches really muddle everything, but Encarnacion is his old self

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

A player’s season stats are a collected story of his year, encapsulating each and every ebb and flow, capturing each slump and hot streak. They tell us as plainly as possible what kind of player he was in the aggregate. Usually, this is a fair way to judge a player - you can’t blame a guy for struggling from facing a week’s worth of Cy Young candidates any more than you can figure his at-bats against Quad-A pitchers are solely representative of who he is. Those slumps and hot streaks come seemingly at random because of any number of influences or little changes or adjustments that throws everything out of whack. Usually, anyway. In Edwin Encarnacion the Indians have a player that experiences one specific slump each season, like clockwork. You can’t toss it out completely, but it’s a bit more fair to judge Edwin based on months that don’t end in L.

We’ve written about it, it’s famous with Encarnacion. He just takes the first month-ish off of the season before his usual offensive detonation. there’s some kind of “parrots like the warm weather” commentary in here, but whatever it is, he did it again. After an April that saw a 55 wRC+ out of him, the rest of the season has been typical Edwin. He posted a 130 wRC+ since May 1st, third best on the team and the 45th highest in baseball. That’s not quite elite, but sandwiched between Bryce Harper and Jesus Aguilar is pretty comfortable company. Even if it is several ticks below, say, Nick Castellanos.

So I can’t be the only one who looked a bit askance at his deflated rate stats over the course of the year. After all, it’s what anyone who cares about the Indians worries about - the hideous specter of age rearing its ugly head while he’s still owed $40 million, hamstringing the Tribe payroll. And to be fair, he’s shown hints of decline. Even taking into account the idea his season really starts each year on May 1, his 20.8 percent strikeout rate is a career high, his 12.3 percent walk rate is his lowest post-April mark since 2014, and his .241 Isolated Slugging the lowest mark since 2012. All are troubling trends of a slowing bat and diminishing power.

But everyone knew the guy coming over wouldn’t quite be the incredible force he demonstrated three or four years ago in Toronto. He’s merely supposed to be very good. And a 130 wRC+ is exactly that. It’s sometimes disingenuous to parse sample sizes at random - I did it a bit with a Brantley/Kipnis article last month to illustrate that exact issue. But what do you believe more, one month where he swung like a legless Dee Gordon, or five months of excellent offense? Which one is more illustrative for what we can expect come October?

The Tribe missed Edwin last fall after he sprained his ankle rounding second in the first game of the ALDS. He’s not quite the force he was even a year ago, but the twin eruptions of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley’s return to form and the hope that Josh Donaldson is good takes some of the pressure off. So he doesn’t need to be something amazing. But he’s still been their third best hitter for the last five months. As much as a player’s season stats tell their tale, his own do Edwin quite the disservice, even if it does lull the opposition (or at least opposing fans, actual teams probably know this) into a false sense of security. His spring was just a bit longer, is all. He’s probably just fine. It’s nice to know, even as Father Time creeps closer, that the parrot hasn’t had his wings clipped quite yet.