ATLANTA - Despite hitting just .136 over the first 16 games, Carlos Santana "has actually been kicking ass," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler says.
Nonetheless, Santana was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season when the Phils closed out a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
"Carlos is getting a blow just like anybody else," Kapler said. "It's a long season, long stretch of games."
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Kapler's observation about Santana's kicking backside is rooted in the exit velocity and launch angles that Santana's batted balls have produced.
Santana ranks in the top 25 percent in the majors with an average exit velocity of 90.7 mph. Based on hit probability of his batted-ball metrics, Santana has an expected batting average of .274. The .138 gap between that and his actual batting average is the largest in baseball.
"Unluckiest start in baseball," Kapler said of Santana, who signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies in the offseason. "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."
Hitting the ball hard is little solace for a hitter when he looks up on the scoreboard and sees .136 next to his name.
"It's really frustrating," Kapler said. "As hitters, all we ever do is look up and see our stats on the scoreboard and they're just so not indicative of our true talent, so not indicative of who we are as baseball players. As a player myself, I hated it because I could feel that I was having great at-bats and seeing the ball great and getting nothing to show for it. Inevitably, it starts to wear on your confidence even though it's not even real. I imagine for ‘Los it's frustrating. For all of us watching, it's frustrating, as well, because we think he's been kicking ass and having a really strong start to the season."
With Santana getting a rest, Rhys Hoskins started at first base and Scott Kingery in left field.