Throughout spring training I’ll be highlighting “things to work on” for certain key players this year.
Carlos Santana is the typical power hitter. He swings for the fences a little too often and loves to chase the high heat.
High fastballs entice hitters because if they connect, the ball tends to travel a long way.
Over the past two seasons against right-handed pitchers, Santana has 19 hits against high heaters, six of which left yard at an average distance of 400 feet.
But those 19 hits came out of 259 total swings. That’s an awful lot of work with relatively little payoff. Overall, he hit just .164 against the high heat in 2011 and 2012, well below the league average of .241.
The good news for Santana is that he typically doesn’t chase the ball out of the zone, so he isn’t up there just hacking away at anything that looks enticing. His chase percentage against pitches high and out of the zone was just 18.2 percent over this span, below the league average of 25.5 percent.
But Santana needs to be more patient with the balls in the zone.
Clearly this is an area in which he struggles, and as he enters his third full year in the majors it’s unrealistic to expect his bat speed to dramatically improve. So what Santana needs to do is simply lay off the high heat whenever possible.
Of his 259 swings against high fastballs, 135 came in a hitter’s count. Those 135 swings resulted in 52 outs and just 9 hits.
That’s 52 outs which could have easily been avoided.
Swinging at high fastballs is a risk-reward situation. Some hitters can connect often enough that the ugly swings and misses are worth suffering through.
David Ortiz, for example, hit just .235 against high fastballs from righties, but one in every six balls in play left the yard. For Santana, only one in every 19 resulted in a home run.
If Santana can improve his bat speed and start connecting with the high fastball, then by all means, swing away. But until he proves he has the tools for that type of approach, he needs to be more selective at the plate.