It might also put the Indians one step closer to feeling their in-house options might be better than the realistic options on the free-agent or trade markets.
“I don’t think we’ve reached that point,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said on Thursday.
Fair enough, but that “point” is still out there on the horizon.
One of the internal possibilities for first base is Shelley Duncan. Or, more specifically, Duncan splitting time at first with catcher Carlos Santana. No, I’m not going to use the dreaded “P” word. This is not a platoon (whoops!) situation at all, so don’t please don’t confuse this with that.
The reality is Cleveland wants Santana to play some first base on occasion to keep his bat in the lineup as often as possible. Mixing and matching him with the right-handed Duncan is one way to go, if the Indians are unable to add a Major League first baseman this offseason. Keep in mind, Duncan is out of options, so it seems highly likely he’s on the Opening Day roster one way or another.
So, seeing as it’s the offseason and I get bored easily, I got out my handy dandy notebook and began jotting away (the above photo is from today’s exercise). I was “drawing numbers” as my 2-year-old has taken to calling it. Basically, looking back at last season’s production, I tried to project what a Duncan-Santana scenario — “Dunctana” is what I’m going with — might look like in 2012.
It’s really not as bad as Indians fans might think.
Now, let’s get a few things out of the way….
First, I did not take defense into account. This was an experiment in evaluating offensive projections. Second, I viewed Duncan’s season as a whole, choosing to ignore that a bulk of his production came during his late hot streak (that said, who’s to say regular playing time isn’t what spawned that offensive burst down the stretch?).
Last, yes, I know Lou Marson hits on the days Santana plays first. This was not an evaluation of the offense as a whole — only first base. Besides, the Indians are hoping youngsters such as Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley, among others, can take steps forward to help make up for any offensive struggles in other spots.
Now that we’ve got all that out of the way…
For starters, I had to decide how to split up the playing time between Duncan and Santana. Granted, it’s inevitable that other players will get some at-bats, but in this “perfect-world” scenario, I went with 350 at-bats at first for Duncan and 250 at-bats (600 total) at first base for Santana. On average, American League teams had 616 at-bats for first basemen in 2011.
I stuck with the respective batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage that Duncan and Santana posted last season. There will obviously be some level of fluctuation in 2012, but for the sake of argument, I just went with their 2011 slash lines. I went through and combined their efforts for the projectd Dunctana slash line.
Next, I went through their home runs, RBIs and total bases and computed what their season totals averaged out to over 350 and 250 at-bats, respectively. Based on his 2011 production, Duncan looked like .260/.324/.484 with 17 homers, 74 RBIs and 170 total bases in 350 at-bats. Santana projects at .239/.351/.457 with 12 homers, 36 RBIs and 114 total bases in 250 at-bats.
Combined, Dunctana would project like so:
.245 AVG/.344 OBP/.465 SLG/.809 OPS, 29 HR, 110 RBIs, 284 total bases
Last season, Indians first baseman combined to produce this line:
.247 AVG/.319 OBP/.444 SLG/.763 OPS, 22 HR, 82 RBIs, 261 total bases
American League first basemen on average looked like this in 2011:
.271 AVG/.340 OBP/.451 SLG/.791 OPS, 24 HR, 89 RBIs, 278 total bases
Are there flaws in how I did this? You bet. I’ve already had plenty of people point out some to me on Twitter. I get that this is not a perfect way to project what two players might do in the upcoming season.
The whole point of this is merely to pose this question: would a combination of Shelley Duncan and Carlos Santana at first base really be all that terrible?
According to this rough experiment, it’d at least be better than average. And if I told you the Indians could add a first baseman capable of hitting 29 homers and driving in 110 RBIs, who among you would say that was a bad thing? If Cleveland can’t sign a new first baseman, this at least provides a glimmer of hope.