Over the weekend, the Milwaukee Brewers made a move that almost no one could have predicted would happen in the offseason: they demoted Domingo Santana to AAA.
The move was certainly deserving, as Domingo has been all but unplayable this season. But it is shocking how much Santana’s offense has fallen off since last season. Not only was Santana playable in 2017, he was downright dominant at the plate. The right fielder ranked 14th in wRC+ and 15th in ISO among all MLB outfielders. Currently, he is ranked 91st in both (Only 107 outfielders qualified to make that list).
While advanced measurements help show how bad he’s struggling, no Brewer fan needs to be told he’s lost at the plate. Santana is striking out more often and walking less than he did in 2018.
In fact, Santana’s struggles can likely be correlated to his poor approach at the plate. He’s swinging at 30% of pitches outside of the zone while also missing on swings 4% more of the time. Simply put, the man isn’t making contact.
When he does hit the ball, the power is still there. His hard-hit rate of 40.7% is 25th best among qualified outfielders, sandwiched between Joc Pederson and Mitch Haniger who are both finding career success. That rate is higher than his career norms, while his soft contact rate and medium contact are below his career averages. Hitting the ball hard is not the problem here; however, where he his hitting the ball is somewhat problematic.
Domingo peppered the outfield with line drives and fly balls last year, but in 2018 he’s hitting the ball into the ground in more than 50% of the time he makes contact with a pitch. An additional factor could be that he’s not using opposite field as much as usual, but there’s no sound evidence to support that this is an issue. Santana’s BABIP is at .364, which seems exorbitant but is in line with his career performance. So he’s still having success batting average wise when putting the ball in play, but obviously, hitting the ball on the ground makes it hard to get extra base hits and impossible for home runs.
If Santana wants to return to form and to the big leagues, these two issues are clearly what he needs to work on at Colorado Springs. There must be a focus on controlling the swing and not making efforts at pitches outside of the zone while making more contact. Coaches also need to help Santana add more loft to his swing, so he can get back to bruising outfield walls and sending balls into the bleachers, like the Domingo we all came to grow and love in 2017.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs