After a sluggish start that had Cleveland Indians fans worried, Edwin Encarnacion is reminding us why he’s one of MLB’s best hitters.
I am a little guilty of it myself, so let’s throw that disclaimer out of the way now. My brother and I exchanged messages throughout most of May giving Edwin Encarnacion a hard time.
The frustration was warranted as his batting average hovered around .200 and he seemed to be an automatic out, especially with runners on base. But considering how Encarnacion has been swinging the bat, he appears to be the slugger fans expected when he signed on to come to Cleveland.
Flash back to May 15, roughly one month ago. Encarnacion was batting .198 after an 0-for-5 game against Tampa Bay. He waffled a bit through that series and the following series against Houston. Then, bit by bit, Encarnacion started coming around. By May 27, his average crept up to .207. By the end of May, it shot up to .234, then .240 on June 9th. After Sunday’s monster game and the sweep of the Twins, Encarnacion is now hitting .261, just under his .265 career average.
June has been heating up, it Encarnacion’s performance has followed suit. He’s slashing .333 / .472 / .667 with a 1.138 OPS through Sunday. Compare that to a .263 / .354 / .475 line in May with a .829 OPS. He’s only struck out 6 times so far in June compared to 24 times in May and 35 times in April. His 13 runs in June nearly match his May total of 15.
Against the rest of the AL, Encarnacion is 8th in the AL in OPS and 6th in walks in June, quite a feat given where he started from around the middle of May. There are a few factors at play here as well.
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First is that he appears to be more disciplined at the plate. The reduced strikeouts and increased walks speak to that. But part of the plate discipline is also doing more with the pitches thrown where they can be driven. Watching Encarnacion on Sunday shows this clearly. Both home runs came on great pitches to hit and even his sacrifice fly was put where he could make the productive out. Instead of trying to pull the outside pitch and roll over on it, he simply drove it the opposite way to tally his fifth RBI of the afternoon.
Another factor to consider in Encarnacion’s surge is that the players in front of him are also producing. Aside from Francisco Lindor, who simply cannot string together multiple productive games, both Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez have been raking. When the hitters in front you get on base and apply pressure to a pitcher, that certainly makes a power hitter’s job easier.
We all should have known Encarnacion’s struggles wouldn’t continue all summer.
He is simply too good of a hitter to stay cold for so long. Instead, he has powered the Indians back into first place (with a huge assist from Jose Ramirez and his hair) and is looking like the $20 million man Tribe fans were expecting.