Although the signing of power hitter Edwin Encarnacion hasn’t become official and most likely won’t until some point this week once he passes his physical, the Cleveland Indians signed not only one of the best hitters in baseball, but the best free agent on the market.
Prior to them signing the right-handed power hitter, many believed that the Boston Red Sox became American League’s “Super Team” after they acquired starting pitcher Chris Sale. While plenty will agree or disagree with this notion, the Indians were just one win away from a World Series title and will return starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar along with (hopefully) a healthy Michael Brantley, and others.
Heading into the 2017 season, the Indians and Red Sox will be the clear favorites to win the American League Pennant and represent the AL in the World Series, especially following the Sale trade and Encarnacion signing. Just how much did Encarnacion’s signing effect that? We all know how good of a hitter he is, but how does he hit against Boston and the AL Central?
After many made it seem like Boston was guaranteed a spot in the World Series following the Sale move, the Indians made a signing of their own that may have turned the tide, and definitely one that fares well against Boston and the rest of the American League Central. Against the Red Sox’s top three starters, Encarnacion has done quite well in his career1:
- Chris Sale: 5-for-13, .385/.500/.615 split, one home run, two RBIs
- David Price: 12-for-49, .245/.321/.510 split, one double, four home runs, nine RBIs
- Rick Porcello: 13-for-40, .325/.341/.675 split, five doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs
Obviously, before the Indians even think about the AL Pennant, they must first get past the other teams in their division, against whom they play 76 games (19 each). If they don’t beat the teams in their division, they have no shot of winning the Central, let alone get into the playoffs. He may not hit as well against pitchers like Sale and Porcello, but the right-hander has done well against the Indians’ four AL Central opponents as well, especially the Kansas City Royals, who will most likely be the second- or third-best team in the division.
- vs. White Sox: 40-for-135, .296/.368/.474 split, six doubles, six home runs, 22 RBIs
- vs. Tigers: 41-for-154, .266/.343/.494 split, eight doubles, nine home runs, 24 RBIs
- vs. Royals: 47-for-149, .315/.418/.564 split, 13 doubles, eight home runs, 26 RBIs
- vs. Twins: 47-for-171, .275/.359/.556 split, five doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 44 RBIs
Now that we know how the 33-year-old does at the plate against the rest of the Central, how has he done in the four other parks in the division outside of Progressive Field? Well, he has done well, at least overall2
- US Cellular (Chicago): 15-for-52, .288/.406/.500 split, two doubles, three home runs, 11 RBIs
- Comerica Park (Detroit): 22-for-96, .229/.302/.385 split, six doubles, three home runs, seven RBIs
- Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City): 20-for-79, .253/.355/.506 split, eight doubles, four home runs, 16 RBIs
- Target Field (Minnesota): 25-for-85, .294/.378/.553 split, one double, seven home runs, 18 RBIs
For what it’s worth, over his time in the MLB, Encarnacion has done better than his career average both as a first baseman and designated hitter, which is where he will be utilized in Cleveland.
- 1B: 384-for-1,419, .271/.361/.548 split, 81 doubles, three triples, 102 home runs, 292 RBIs
- DH: 432-for-1,561, .277/.369/.527 split, 87 doubles, 101 home runs, 298 RBIs
He is also better in the cleanup spot in the batting order than his career averages, which is where he is projected by many to bat in Cleveland’s lineup:
- When batting fourth: 499-for-1,847, .270/.362/.526 split, 109 doubles, two triples, 120 home runs, 353 RBIs
The Indians still have to play 162 regular season games before the postseason begins, but with the signing of Encarnacion, the club has set themselves up to beat not only their AL Central opponents, but the Red Sox, who will likely be fighting for the best record in the American League along with Cleveland.
They may have signed the 33-year-old to the richest contract in team history, but he could be well worth it for years to come. Encarnacion will not only bring plenty of power to the lineup, but his presence in the lineup will also make other hitters better as well, especially whoever hits ahead of him because opposing pitchers will now have to pitch to said batter because they know Encarnacion is in the on deck circle.
It will be hard to not look ahead to the postseason, much like Cavaliers fans, but if (and when) the Indians get through their division, they have positioned themselves very well to make yet another World Series run for years to come.