While he was hardly the only struggling hitter, one of the most noticeable Indians to take a step backwards in 2012 was Carlos Santana.
In roughly the same number of plate appearances as 2011, Santana hit nine fewer home runs and 17 fewer extra-base hits. While his on-base percentage actually rose this past season, without his power in the middle of the lineup the Indians struggled to put runs on the board.
So what went wrong?
Santana’s power numbers were down across the board, but one stat stood out above the rest. In 2011, Santana crushed fastballs from left-handed pitching, hitting .380 with four home runs. Santana’s 1.152 OPS as a right-handed batter vs fastballs ranked fourth in all of baseball.
In 2012, his numbers from the right side of the plate plummeted. He hit just .250 with one home run. And his OPS was nearly cut in half to .678, which ranked as the seventh worst in the major leagues.
A power hitter that can’t hit the fastball is, well, not a power hitter. And in 2012, Santana’s numbers against the heater were more fitting of a number-two hitter.
Santana was far from useless at the plate – one could argue he was still the Indians most valuable player on offense – but the Indians are relying on him to anchor the heart of the order.
Even if the Dolans open up their wallet more than usual this offseason, the Indians will never be able to afford a legitimate power hitter. They have to develop players such as Santana to fill that role and if Santana isn’t that guy, they’re out of luck. No one is coming up through the system capable of powering their offense anytime soon.