clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Domingo Santana is having a weird season

New, 57 comments

Santana has us all frozen in “we’ll see” mode.

Domingo Santana Weird Season 2018
It could be ugly for Domingo Santana in 2018 without a little good fortune.
Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Tweak the script and Domingo Santana might be in the doghouse. Imagine Josh Hader pitching more like a normal human. Jesus Aguilar stuck in a cold streak. Or a couple bad bounces in a few one run games. Milwaukee sports radio would be up in arms calling for heads to roll.

Fortunately Josh Hader isn’t a normal human - and the Brewers have managed to get a bunch of wins without Domingo Santana’s normal self.

Just a bit of bad luck, maybe? Ryan Braun has been the Brewers’ big victim of BABIP in 2018 so far and I figured something similar for Santana. Not so. Santana is actually among league leaders in BABIP:

BABIP leaders thru June 3rd

Name BABIP PA K% AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+
Name BABIP PA K% AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+
Nicholas Castellanos .419 237 20.70% .342 .384 .536 .920 148
Matt Kemp .403 190 21.60% .347 .379 .580 .958 163
Matt Duffy .392 181 21.00% .314 .354 .396 .750 108
Scooter Gennett .390 231 19.90% .340 .376 .558 .934 153
Albert Almora Jr. .380 176 17.00% .319 .371 .444 .815 124
Jose Altuve .379 265 14.30% .332 .379 .459 .838 134
Freddie Freeman .378 262 16.00% .335 .431 .534 .965 160
Jean Segura .377 250 13.60% .341 .360 .483 .843 131
Aaron Judge .374 251 29.90% .288 .414 .585 1.000 169
Brandon Crawford .373 217 21.70% .310 .350 .470 .820 123
Brandon Belt .369 226 23.50% .307 .403 .547 .950 161
Domingo Santana .369 191 30.40% .260 .330 .373 .703 90
Nolan Arenado .364 230 18.70% .325 .417 .589 1.006 155
Brian Anderson .364 242 20.20% .287 .364 .394 .757 114
BABIP Leaders Fangraphs

Of the top 15, Santana has been the least productive and it isn’t very close. Brian Anderson of the Miami Marlins is in the ballpark. But Santana is the outlier.

Takeaways:

  • He misses the baseball a lot
  • He’s not hitting the baseball very hard
  • When he has hit the baseball not very hard he’s gotten a hit more often than most others

Not painting an inspiring picture. Sure seems like this could be going a whole lot worse.

The simple unsurprising answer: too many ground balls.

BABIP leaders by batted ball type

Name GB/FB LD% GB% FB%
Name GB/FB LD% GB% FB%
Matt Duffy 2.00 22.70% 51.50% 25.80%
Jean Segura 2.00 23.90% 50.70% 25.40%
Domingo Santana 1.90 23.70% 50.00% 26.30%
Brian Anderson 1.69 21.00% 49.70% 29.30%
Albert Almora Jr. 1.43 20.30% 46.90% 32.80%
Jose Altuve 1.37 28.30% 41.50% 30.20%
Brandon Crawford 1.25 29.90% 39.00% 31.20%
Scooter Gennett 1.15 25.30% 40.00% 34.70%
Nolan Arenado 1.12 29.00% 37.40% 33.50%
Aaron Judge 1.02 19.80% 40.50% 39.70%
Freddie Freeman .98 32.00% 33.70% 34.30%
Nicholas Castellanos .92 30.10% 33.50% 36.40%
Matt Kemp .92 26.10% 35.50% 38.40%
Brandon Belt .45 30.90% 21.60% 47.50%
BABIP leaders by batted ball type Fangraphs

Makes sense speedy guys hitting a bunch of grounders + some luck equals big BABIP. Makes a little less sense - and is less sustainable - for someone with average speed (some grumpy fans might say, erm...selective speed?) + some luck equals big BABIP. Santana’s archetype errs on the side of high FB%. In 2018 he’s well above league average in GB%. By conventional wisdom you could call Santana quite lucky to don his .260/.330/.373 slash. With a BABIP closer to league average (.295) at a position with a higher standard for offensive production he’d be diving to odious depths in valuation.

Batting average remains consistently under the microscope. Given the heavy competition in the Brewers’ outfield, a batting average threatening the Mendoza Line wouldn’t be doing him any favors. Neither do the optics of his typical whiff rate and defensive lackings. In terms of public perception or in the clubhouse.

Normally Santana makes up for the poor optics and middling batting average with plus power and a strong walk rate. But as of June 3rd, Santana is below league average in SLG and ISO and a fraction above league average in BB%.

Prescription: hit more balls in the air; hit the ball harder; more XBH; more dingers; etc. Easy, right?

Fortunately for Santana, the leash is long. At 25 there remains room for growing pains. Perhaps irregular PA’s disrupts his rhythm and he’s a mental adjustment from a fix. But there’s heavy competition breathing down his neck and no pending BABIP luck reversal to turn things around.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs