For those of you who regularly read the comments around here, and/or follow Let's Go Tribe on Twitter, I may have begun to sound like a broken record, for which I apologize, but allow me to say once more: Carlos Santana is a great hitter, the slump he spent much of April and May in is over, and has been for quite some time now. Stop wondering if maybe he's starting to turn things around and accept that he's been back to being one of the top bats in baseball for weeks now.
First, a look back at the slump:
Carlos actually started the season well, with a .292 average and .514 OBP through 8 games. He went 0 for 4 in the second game of a doubleheader against San Diego on April 9 though, which was the start of a prolonged down swing. Over the next six weeks Santana endured a 38-game stretch in which he hit .121/.259/.250, giving him a wRC+ of 58, which is miserable. (wRC+ is my preferred metric for hitting. If it's unfamiliar, you can learn more here) The 26 walks he drew led the team during that time, and the 5 home runs he hit during that time ranked second, but everything else about it was almost literally as bad as it could get. He struck out at a higher rate than usual, and his BABIP was a paltry .125. He wasn't putting the ball in play as often, and when he did, it was almost never for a hit.
Many, including myself, kept saying he'd snap out of it, just give it time. Yes, it was an especially bad slump, but there are always good players in the midst of a slump, and good players come back out of those slumps, looking again just like the player they were before. Even so, it was hard watching such poor results. A relatively low batting average even when he's hitting well, Santana is the type of player a certain sort of fan just can't accept as any good, and that sort of fan had put their claws on to rip Santana apart at every opportunity. I never lost confidence in Santana, but his at bats were no longer any fun.
On May 22nd Santana picked up a couple hits in the first of four games in Baltimore. He reached base safely 10 times in that series, including three extra-base hits. Suddenly he looked like his old self. Unfortunately, in the final game of that series, while playing catcher, Santana was struck in the mask by a foul ball and suffered a concussion. He would miss the next nine games.
Some speculated that the time away would do him good, and help him find his swing, overlooking the fact that he'd been the team's top player in the just-completed series. His batting average was still just .159 at that point, too low a figure for some people to see anything else about a player. Multiple fights broke out in the comments here about Santana, to say nothing of other online outlets, which fighting is more common.
Santana returned on June 6, and since then he has been one of the absolute best hitters in baseball, with a .333/.441/.632 line. For the month of June his wRC+ of 204 not only leads the team, it ranks second in the American League, behind only Mike Trout. That's right, the only player in the league swinging a better bat than Carlos this month is the best player in baseball. I'm willing to settle for that.
The six bad weeks happened, I'm not trying to whitewash it away, but the three and half year before it happened too, and should have convinced everyone that the slump would pass. Because of the slump, Santana's 2014 numbers are still well below what he's done before, but they're also still good. Well, the .202 batting average isn't, but at least it doesn't begin with a one now. Meanwhile, Santana has the best walk rate in baseball this season (18.4% of all plate appearances), giving him an OBP of .354, which is well above average, and ranks third on the team among regulars (behind Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall), as does his 116 wRC+.
Even with the slump, Santana has been the third best hitter on the team this season. During the last month, he's been the very best, and while just about anything could happen, the odds favor Santana to be the Tribe's best hitter over the rest of the season too.