Last night, Twitter was filled with rumors of a deal involving the Indians and Los Angeles Angels with the Tribe sending Corey Kluber to the west coast in exchange for slugger Mark Trumbo.
While both teams have denied the rumor and quite frankly, it doesn’t make much sense for the Indians from this point of view: It is very likely Cleveland will be losing two starting pitchers (Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir) to free agency, so it doesn’t make sense to trade another.
However, the debate then turned to a discussion of the merits of Trumbo, comparing him to current Indian C/1B/DH Carlos Santana.
It was surprising to find how little regard Tribe fans have for Santana, who is arguably (and statistically) the team’s second best offensive player behind Jason Kipnis.
The Angel’s slugger certainly has the traditional numbers, hitting 34 home runs and knocking in 100 runs last season with a .234 batting average.
However, if you look deeper into the numbers, it is very clear that Santana is a better offensive player.
Why? For one, he makes less outs with an on base percentage of .377 compared to Trumbo’s .294 figure. While some people pooh-pooh walks, they aren’t outs, so the offense moves on to the next player.
And while Trumbo belted 34 dingers compared to Santana’s 20 circuit clouts, the Tribe’s switch hitter had virtually the same slugging percentage (.455 vs. Trumbo’s .453).
However, Santana had nine more doubles in less official at bats because of the walks he takes.
So, in the two major categories that measure hitting effectiveness, the ability to get on base and the ability to move runners (slugging), Santana is superior.
And these aren’t subjective statistics either. They are measurable.
Both players are the same age (both will turn 28 in the first half of 2014), so there isn’t an advantage on the upside of either player.
You could assume that Santana may be more productive since he will likely be catching less next season as Terry Francona has publicly stated that Yan Gomes will be the starting catcher heading into training camp.
There aren’t many people who disagree that squatting behind the dish and taking foul tips off your body don’t help your offensive numbers.
Another statistic against Trumbo is his strikeout rate, which continues to go up. In his rookie year of 2011, the right-handed hitter fanned 120 times.
That number increased to 153 times in ’12 and last year, he whiffed 184 times. That’s Mark Reynolds territory.Still, what is surprising to us is how little Tribe fans regard Santana.
Is he a gold glove catcher? No, but he’s not the worst defensive backstop in the American League either.
He’s not a guy who belts 30 homers, nor does he knock in a boatload of runs.
And he’s not the pure hitter that his idol, former Indians Victor Martinez is either.
However, he is a very good offensive player. The average American League player has an OPS of 725. Santana’s is 832.
We have always said a player who has an on-base percentage of .350 and a slugging percentage of .450 is a very good offensive player. Santana gets a check in both of those areas.
Carlos Santana will probably never win a league MVP, and he may never make an All-Star team. However, he is a very valuable commodity.
It’s a shame some baseball fans in Cleveland don’t realize it.