Santana dropped out of cleanup spot

Carlos Santana was mercifully dropped in the lineup on Friday, the first time in his career he did not hit either 3rd or 4th.

There’s a decent chance he’ll climb back up later this season, but what if he doesn’t? Where would his miserably stint as the cleanup hitter rank in Indians history?

Over the past 90 seasons 132 different players have started at least 40 games in the four-hole in an individual year. Of those 132 only Moose Solters, who hit cleanup 44 times in 1938, posted a lower batting average than Santana.

Solters season was a confusing one. The previous year he hit .323 with 20 homers – just the 4th different Indian to reach the 20 home run plateau. I did some research to see if I could find the reason for Solters decline (perhaps an injury) but found only this mention from the Baseball Biography Project:

Solters had played well under manager Steve O’Neill in 1937, but new skipper Ossie Vitt was another story altogether in 1938. For whatever reason, perhaps his holdout, Vitt played Solters rather little. He went into a prolonged slump and by that time, Vitt couldn’t in all fairness to the team keep sending him out there day after day. He benched Solters. Moose recovered some in 1939, and was hitting .275 after his first 41 games. He was put on waivers and claimed by his old team, the Browns, for the $7,500 waiver price.

Santana’s rough year continues

It’s been a tough spring for Carlos Santana, who is barely above the Mendoza line at the season’s quarter-pole.

His .207 batting average ranks among the worst in recent history through 45 games, but is compounded by the fact that he continues to bat cleanup.

The only Indian the last 50 seasons with at least 125 plate appearance in the four-hole through 45 games to post an average lower than Santana was Andre Thornton (.183 in 1986).

Indians 19, Royals 1

A game like this is a blogger’s dream, so without further ado let’s dive into the great stats…

  • The Tribe scored 19+ runs for the sixth time in the Jacobs Field era. Each of the last three games, prior to last night’s, were against the Yankees.
  • It was the first time the Indians scored 19+ runs with the help of just one homer since a 19-9 win in 1977 against the Red Sox. Jim Norris provided the lone long ball that day.
  • The Indians had four players with 3+ RBI for just the 10th time in the past 90 seasons. The record is five players, accomplished in 2004 and 1928 – both against the Yankees.
  • Matt LaPorta was the first Indians No. 8 hitter to reach base five times in a game since Einar Diaz in 2000 against the Blue Jays. He is also the first No. 8 hitter to reach base five times and drive in four runs since Rusty Torres in 1973 against the Twins.
  • Carlos Santana became the first Indians catcher with three walks and a stolen base in a game since Alan Ashby in 1975 against the A’s. He also became the first Tribe cleanup hitter to do so since Mel Hall in 1988 against the White Sox.
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN), Royals reliever Vin Mazzaro became the first pitcher in baseball history to allow 14 runs in fewer than three innings of work.
  • The Royals tied a franchise record by allowing four Indians to drive in at least four runs.

Can Carlos Santana turn it around?

Carlos Santana is one of just six Indians over the past 20 seasons to post a batting average under .200 through the team’s first 30 games (min. 100 PA). And while 30 games is a small portion of the 162 games schedule, he may have already dug himself a hole too deep to climb out of.

Of the previous five, only Asdrubal Cabrera in 2008 was able to raise his season average above .250 after the slow start. And you have to go all the way back to Toby Harrah in 1979 to find the last time a player raised his average above .275 after this type of start.

Like Harrah did with his .373 BA through June and July, Santana is going to need to catch fire in order to raise the batting average to a respectable level. His walk off grand slam looked like it may be a turning point, but he’s just 3-15 in the four games since.

While the Tribe’s 21-9 start is certainly encouraging, it’s going to be difficult to keep up this pace with a cleanup hitter batting below the Mendoza line.

Walk-off grand slam!

The Tribe just keeps on rolling and this time doing it in dramatic fashion.

With the game tied in the bottom of the 9th, Carlos Santana belted a walk-off grand slam off Detroit’s Joaquin Benoit. It was the Tribe’s first walk-off in that fashion since Jim Thome (also against the Tigers) in 2002.

And of course, we can’t talk about walk-off grand slam’s without mentioning Bill Selby. With two outs, two strikes and the Tribe trailing 7-6 against arguably the greatest closer in baseball history Selby – who hit just 11 career home runs – hit one of the most improbably homers in Indians history. It was the first walk-off home run allowed by Mariano Rivera, and is still the only walk-off grand slam he has given up.

Santana’s blast was also just the 11th walk-off grand slam for the Tribe in the past 50 seasons. Here are the others, curtousy of baseball-reference:

Opening Day notes

  • Carlos Santana was back in the lineup batting cleanup, a rare slot for a 24-year-old catcher. Since 1919 (as far back as baseball-reference game finder goes) only four other catchers have batted cleaning on opening day for the Tribe (Victor Martinez did so three times). And perhaps more noteworthy, Santana is the youngest catcher to bat cleanup in his team’s season opener since Hall of Famer Gary Carter in 1978.
  • Fausto Carmona‘s 10 earned runs allowed set a Tribe record for opening day (since 1919, of course). It’s also the most allowed by any pitcher in his team’s opener since Early Wynn, pitching for the Senators, allowed 10 to the Yankees in 1948. It was his final year in Washington before joining the Tribe. [Update: according to The Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN) Carmona was the first pitcher in baseball history to allow 10 runs in three innings or less on opening day.]
  • Jack Hannahan became just the 3rd Indians No. 9 hitter to go deep on opening day (since 1919) joining Ron Pruitt (1978 vs Royals) and Bob Lemon (1953 vs White Sox).

The cautionary tale of Mark Lewis

Through nine career games Carlos Santana is batting .393 with 2 HR, 8 RBI and a .514 OBP. On Sunday he went 3-4 with a HR, collecting his 4th career multi-hit game.

It’s an impressive start, to be sure, but he isn’t the first Tribe rookie to jump out to a hot start. Over the last 25 seasons, he’s the 8th Tribe rookie with at least four multi-hit games through his first nine career games. It’s an odd collection of names, and hopefully the top name on the list give us reason to temper our enthusiasm about Santana.

Here’s a quick history lesson on Mark Lewis, who was our early 90s version of Carlos Santana…

In late April 1991 the Tribe called up Lewis – Baseball America’s 9th-rated prospect entering the season. The former 2nd-overall pick filled in for Felix Fermin and got off to a torrid start, with five multi-hit performances in his first eight career games. By the end of May he was batting .363 and had shifted over to 2nd base, replacing veteran Jerry Browne.

Lewis looked like a future star, but unfortunately that first month was the highlight of his career. As the everyday shortstop in 1992 he hit just .264 and relinquished the job back to Fermin in 1993. After spending the majority of the ’93 season batting .284 in Tripe-A Charlotte, the Tribe essentially gave up on Lewis when they traded Fermin and Reggie Jefferson for Omar Vizquel. Lewis would start the 1994 season in a platoon with Jim Thome at third base, but was sent back down to Charlotte in May after batting .217 through the first two months of the season.

Lewis was traded to the Reds for Tim Costo in December 1994.

So while it’s fun to watch Carlos Santana and imagine him as the next Victor Martinez or Sandy Alomar Jr. Remember, at one time Mark Lewis was the future of our franchise as well.

Carlos Santana is no Wyatt Toregas

It’s incredibly early in the career of Carlos Santana. Far too early to jump to any conclusions about his future.

But it’s never too early to see how he stacks up against former Tribesmen.

Santana is five games into his career and already has four RBI (thanks to his three-RBI game on Saturday against the Nationals). His numbers aren’t overwhelming, but that is a fairly impressive run-producing start for a rookie.

Over the last 50 seasons, only one Indians catcher has driven in more runs through his first five career games. And surprisingly, we don’t have to go back very far to find the only one better. You may remember Wyatt Toregas.

Toregas was called up last August and drove in five runs in his first five games. Unfortunately, he drove in just one more in his final 14 games of the season.

Based on the fact that he’s hitting .203 in 17 games as Akron this year, we may have already seen the last of Toregas.