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Santana, Phils confident luck will soon change

Veteran 1B out of Wednesday's starting lineup after rough batting stretch
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

ATLANTA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler shot the unluckiest hitter in baseball a text message Wednesday morning.

He told Carlos Santana that he would not start Wednesday night's series finale against the Braves at SunTrust Park, the first time Santana has not been in the starting lineup this season. Santana entered Wednesday's game hitting .136 with two home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 walks, 12 strikeouts and a .548 OPS in 73 plate appearances, and went 0-for-2 as a pinch-hitter during the 7-3 loss to the Braves. The numbers look bad, but anybody with eyes or a familiarity with analytics knows those numbers are deceiving.

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ATLANTA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler shot the unluckiest hitter in baseball a text message Wednesday morning.

He told Carlos Santana that he would not start Wednesday night's series finale against the Braves at SunTrust Park, the first time Santana has not been in the starting lineup this season. Santana entered Wednesday's game hitting .136 with two home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 walks, 12 strikeouts and a .548 OPS in 73 plate appearances, and went 0-for-2 as a pinch-hitter during the 7-3 loss to the Braves. The numbers look bad, but anybody with eyes or a familiarity with analytics knows those numbers are deceiving.

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"I'm not frustrated," Santana said. "I'm professional. I've made good contact. At any moment it can change."

Santana has a 138-point gap between his .274 expected batting average, which is formulated using the Statcast™ Hit Probability metric, and his actual batting average. It is the largest gap out of 159 batters in baseball (minimum 50 at-bats).

Santana's 52.0 percent hard-hit rate ranked 17th out of 244 hitters. He has made 20 outs on hard-hit balls, which tied DJ LeMahieu for the most in baseball.

Fourteen of those hard-hit outs were in the air, and six of those were at or near the warning track in center field.

"I'll try to pull it more," Santana said, smiling. "It happens, it's baseball. It's like that. Everybody here knows I've been making good contact and in some cases that happens. Maybe I'll get a blooper and everything will be OK."

Video: CIN@PHI: Santana plates Hernandez with double in 3rd

Need even more proof that Santana has run into some rotten luck? Santana's .208 average on hard-hit balls is the fifth-lowest mark in baseball. The MLB average on hard-hit balls this season is a robust .509.

Santana averaged .500 on hard-hit balls last season.

"He's actually been kicking [butt]," Kapler said. "It's been so frustrating to see everything correlate with the batting average, knowing that his expected batting average and his actual batting average are so far apart. Unluckiest start in baseball. He's squaring the baseball up. He's still walking. He's still having great at-bats. From our perspective, Carlos is having a great start to the season. It's just the way that baseball is set up that it doesn't appear that way."

Perhaps a day off will improve Santana's luck.

Of course, Santana preferred to start Wednesday. Kapler probably figured that, which is why he started his Wednesday morning text message to Santana with a friendly request.

"He told me, 'Hey, Los, tell me yes, please,' before he asked the question," Santana said. "I said, 'What?' He said, 'I'm giving you the day off.' I said, 'OK, OK.' He knows I like to play every day no matter what, if I'm struggling or not."

Santana is struggling in a sense, but he is not worried.

"I'll be fine, I'll be fine," he said. "It's tough, but I'll be fine."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Carlos Santana