Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – Frustration is mounting with Edwin Encarnacion.
The player says he is not frustrated with his lack of production. Fans have chimed in, likening the slugger to past free agent failures like Nick Swisher, a ridiculous comparison given the fact that the season is less than a quarter over.
The problem for those who are already feeling buyer’s remorse on the three-year, $60 million contract is that the full picture of Encarnacion’s impact has not yet been seen.
No, the numbers are not there. The home runs have not come in bunches, nor have the RBI, or hits in general. But unlike Mike Napoli and Indians cleanup hitters of the team’s past, Encarnacion’s impact will send ripples throughout the lineup when the hits do come.
The numbers indicate it is coming, and his past indicates there is no reason for worry.
The main thing missing have been the extra-base hits (7), as Encarnacion’s slugging percentage sits at a career low. Compared to his past three seasons, the three best of his career, he is 7, 5 and 11 XBH off of pace through 35 in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively.
The batting average is also missing, with predictably the worst of his past four years, but his on-base percentage (.367) is higher than any of those years (.306, .311, .344), with his walks (25) obviously way up (12, 14, 17).
Encarnacion has seen the fewest pitches in the zone of any player on the Indians at 42.7 percent, just ahead of Jose Ramirez at 43.2. He is also seeing a career-low number of fastballs (50.3 percent) and a career-high in changeups (12.1).
“When you have a tough first month, you’re not going to get it all back in a week. It’d be nice, but sometimes guys get into it bit-by-bit. Sometimes guys have one swing and they find it,” Manager Terry Francona said. “He’s still taking his walks which is good. He’s probably not completely locked in which you can tell; but he’s still really dangerous. With Edwin, you keep running him out there because you know it’s going to happen and when it does, it will give us a different gear.”
Encarnacion is not paid to walk, but he would do the team no good by swinging at more bad pitches because of the chance to drive in more runs. That is how he got up to a career-high 28.4 K-rate.
The numbers that indicate a breakout will come? A career-high line-drive rate (26 percent) and hard-hit rate (45.5 percent).
The last time Encarnacion hit less than 34 home runs and drove in fewer than 98 runs was 2011, and he has had a WAR above 3.5 every year since.
The three time All-Star says he will not, and does not feel any sort or pressure.
“No, I’m never going to feel frustration because I know what I can do, and it’s a long season,” he said. “I’m going to keep my head up, keep working hard.”