The Cleveland Indians (Joe Smith) and Boston Red Sox (Addison Reed) both acquired bullpen arms on the Monday MLB trade deadline day. Both relievers had their first action on Tuesday night with Smith (2 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 SO) easily out-performing Reed (1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 SO) thanks to Carlos Santana sending a the ball beyond where even Austin Jackson would be able to catch it.
The game itself was infuriating to watch. Brandon Guyer and Santana led the way to an early five run lead, only to see the Red Sox tie things up in one half inning against starter Carlos Carrasco, who would not last two innings. Edwin Encarnacion would push the Indians ahead, 7-5, with a home run, only to see Bryan Shaw continue to hang pitches over the heart of the plate as the Red Sox jumped ahead by two runs. Santana’s home run off Reed followed by a Francisco Lindor home run and some great at bats against Craig Kimbrel leading to a go-ahead wild pitch run gave the Indians a one run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
A last half frame inning where the Indians would record three outs as Cody Allen struck out Mitch Moreland. If only Yan Gomes realized he swung as Allen’s pitch went wide and Moreland sprinted to first base. At that point it felt obvious the Red Sox No. 9 hitter would hit a three-run home run to finish off the game, 12-10.
Let’s stop focusing on the negative though. The Indians did score 10 runs on Tuesday. Giovanny Urshela, Michael Brantley, Lindor, and Gomes each made some fine defensive plays.
Of course, none of them compared to the amazing, body-sacrificing, jumping over the bullpen wall catch that earned Austin Jackson a standing ovation from the Fenway Park crowd that had WFNY detailing the event in real time here.
Another continued trend in the game was the surging Santana bat. A 2-for-4 night with a double and a home run, three RBIs, and a run is becoming somewhat customary for the reborn slugger.
The Indians biggest additions in the second half of the season could be players already on the roster. Having starter Danny Salazar return to the rotation healthy for the first time in a year adds a potential ace as good as any that were available on the market. The lineup will be adding Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall soon as they continue to rehabilitate from their injuries, but the biggest game-changer could be the emergence of Carlos Santana’s bat.
Santana did his best Jose Ramirez impression in July (does not include Tuesday, obviously) as he had 13 games reaching base two or more times (nine of them with two or more hits- so most of the time he was hitting not walking) with six of those instances reaching base at least three times. Santana had hits in 16 of the 21 games he started. He slashed .325/.413/.613 with five home runs, eight doubles, 14 RBIs, and 15 runs. The surge has led to many quick takes that Second Half Santana is in full force, which means it is time to dig up the numbers to see if it is a real thing.1
Before 2017, Santana has seen an increase in production during the second half of the season in five of seven years. One of the only two downturns was his rookie season, which featured both a small sample size and the first time Santana needed to adjust to MLB pitchers creating a book on his swing. The other season with falling offensive efficiency saw less than a six percent drop (more consistent than fluctuating). Another two seasons had positive movement but only in a marginal sense (three and six percent rises). There are three seasons left with a significant uptick in performance during the closing months (2012, 2014, 2016).
Excluding a partial rookie season, the proper way to state Santana’s historical seasonal variance is to state that he was equally likely to maintain a consistent value throughout a season as he was to see an increase in production without much risk of a significant drop off. The fact that the maintaining value happened in odd years and rising happened in even years is only truly valuable if you find yourself participating in a deep-dive Indians trivia contest.2
Another interesting tidbit of information is that he has never maintained the level of production he held in July of 2017 throughout an entire half of a season (though he was close in the second half of 2012). Expecting to see some regression from Santana from his crazy month should be expected (and is already seen somewhat as his post All-Star break numbers have some regression compared to his overall July).
Still, Santana improving upon his first half in drastic ways would not be out of the ordinary for what he has done in his career in both the second half and as a general note of where the value of his bat has been. Of the 13 non-rookie halves in the table, only two of them are below average (wRC+ and/or sOPS+ below 100) with one of them being the first half of this season. A regression to the norm is a good thing for Santana here.
The ruling here is that Second Half Santana is real, and fans should expect his bat to continue to be better than what he gave the Tribe in the early months. His bat just probably won’t be quite as hot as it was this July.