We can learn a lot from Carlos Santana

This year has been some form of a break out year for Carlos Santana. He’s currently 33 years old though which means that he’s past the stage where a player will usually have this type of year. So what is this called? Is it really a breakout year? I say yes, there are no specific qualifications for a players performance to be considered a “breakout”. It’s just not usually seen in this type of situation. I would be curious as to when the last time a player had a breakout this late in his career. One thing we can learn from this is that players can always improve. They could make one simple change in one aspect of their swing, delivery, or training method to see this type of jump that Carlos Santana is.

To put into terms just how big of an increase Carlos Santana is seeing in performance, take a look below at his year to year comparison. Obviously, everything is up this year, especially his OPS.

Data via Baseball Savant

I don’t think we should be surprised either by this jump in performance. It shouldn’t have been expected, but it also shouldn’t be something that would be surprising. The reasoning is quite simple. Carlos Santana always gets on base. He is one of the best players in all of baseball at drawing walks. There isn’t one year when he didn’t draw a considerable amount of walks. Take a look below and you can see his year by year breakdown. You can see all of the walks he draws. You can also see the raw data showing his huge jump in performance this season. It can help to elaborate on the idea of his jump in performance across almost all statistics.

Data via Baseball Savant

I believe that this change was made because of the current trend that bio mechanics is playing in the game of baseball. Bio mechanics has become the new competitive advantage in baseball, well at least the latest one that has been released to the public. Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik released a book titled The MVP Machine on June 4th that takes an inside look into that new competitive advantage. I am still reading it, but I have found it to be very influential so far and it can play a big role in the future of baseball. I encourage you to pick it up if you have the chance.

Carlos Santana has become a part of this biomechanical trend. If you take a look at footage from before this season and compare it to this year, there is actually a very significant difference. In years past his front leg in his swing would make two small stutter steps before swinging at the ball. Now, he takes one big step also known as a leg kick. I believe that this change occurred at some point last season. I know this because I have seen two different swings when assessing footage from 2018.

Now it can be hard to tell the difference in a still image but I included images below so you can see the change that he made. I do still encourage you to take a look at actual video footage of his swing.

Old Swing vs New Swing

The image on the left shows the point in Santana’s swing when he would make his small step before making a larger stride and swinging at the ball. His new swing, pictured on the right, shows that he now takes one big step before swinging at the baseball. This change was made at some point during the season last year and is now completely changing him as a player. The most likely conclusion was that he worked to perfect this change in the offseason and is now receiving the benefits of his hard work and mechanical change.

What lead to this change is a question that I don’t have an answer to. There must have been some biomechanical measurement that indicated this change would lead to improved offensive performance. However, I am totally unaware as to what that measurement was. What’s important though is that this is an indication that this can happen to any player. With this new biomechanical revolution, any player can make one change to turn their career around. Any average major league player can instantly become an all-star starter, just like Carlos Santana. He’s not even the only one with this extreme increase in performance this year either. Just look at Ketel Marte, Hunter Pence, and Jorge Polanco among several others. There are many more players to come of this stature and it may be the future of baseball.