The case for Santana
One of the biggest criticisms of Santana this year has been that he doesn’t drive in enough runs. However, he has driven in more runs (66) than Bour (54) this year. Not only that, he is second behind Hoskins on the team in runs batted in. Simply put, if Santana’s job is to drive in runs, he’s done it:
Santana walks more than Bour but also strikes out in 10% fewer of his plate appearances. His strikeout rate is about in line with his last two seasons in Cleveland. Santana’s walk rate is also the highest since his 46-game rookie season in 2010. That has led to a .351 on-base percentage, which is better than Bour’s despite having a worse batting average.
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In addition, Santana’s isolated power is nearly identical to Bour’s with Santana’s just three points lower at .181. This means they both generate about the same number of extra bases per at-bats. Both are considered above-average in this regard, but you certainly can’t knock Santana for it.
Also, with the way Santana is hitting the ball, he should be performing significantly better than he has. His .218 batting average on balls in play is the second-lowest among all qualified hitters and well below his career BABIP of .265. Santana has an expected wOBA of .367, while Bour’s is .357 according to MLB Statcast. In other words, based on Santana’s average exit velocity and launch angle, his wOBA should be as good as Hoskins.
To look beyond the numbers, revoking Santana of his starting position would alienate him. He signed here with the understanding he would be the starter for the near future. There is no guarantee Bour is here beyond this year, leaving the team with an unhappy starting first baseman with a $20 million salary.