‘Big Time Baseball: Players Edition:’ Inside Carlos Santana's Resurgence

By RADIO.COM

Entering June, the Cleveland Indians sat one game below .500 and were quickly losing hope as the Minnesota Twins were beginning to run away with the division. Since then, the Indians have exploded with an American League-best 16-7 record this month. They’re batting .300 as a team over the past two weeks -- the fourth-highest in baseball. Santana was named the AL's starting first baseman in the All-Star Game.

“Big Time Baseball: Players Edition” co-hosts Tony Gwynn Jr. and Ben Davis credit catcher Carlos Santana as a big piece to the Indians’ success. More importantly, they consider his return to Cleveland (2010-17) a major factor in his resurgence after a year-long stint with the Phillies.

“I’m looking at the swing I saw last year, and I’m looking at the swing I see this year, and they’re identical,” Davis said.

But Gwynn noted that Santana’s issues in Philadelphia stemmed from a change of scenery. Santana compiled a career-low .229 batting average in 2018, collecting 128 hits and 24 home runs.

“Once he changed from Cleveland to Philly last year, it’s a new clubhouse and it’s a new team,” Gwynn said. “Also, it’s a new league and I think people overlook that. ... Part of what makes you a good hitter is the familiarity you have with your opponent, and if you’re facing brand new pitchers, it’s not the same as running through the American League where you’ve been your entire career.

“Baseball players are notorious for being creatures of habit, and when you change your habits and you have to learn a new routine, a new route to the stadium… all of that plays into your performance.”

Gwynn went on to compare Santana’s 2018 struggles with Manny Machado’s slow start to his debut season in San Diego. The Phillies’ Bryce Harper has experienced an up-and-down season as well, despite remaining in the National League.

In Santana’s return to Cleveland, he already has 18 round-trippers, and has consistently hit at around .300. He’s in the top-25 in hard-hit balls, ahead of stars like Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor, and Pete Alonso (via Fangraphs).

“He’s back in normal surroundings, for a manager he’s played for before and with teammates he’s had,” Gwynn said. “Now he has a sense of comfort, and he’s just focused on the game of baseball.”

The Indians are tied for the AL Wild Card lead with the Rangers at 44-36 despite a starting rotation depleted due to injuries. If starters Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Corey Kluber, and Danny Salazar recover, the Indians could prove to be one of the best teams in the AL.