Carlos Santana's typical plate discipline helped to deliver the knockout blow to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday afternoon when he lined a 3-2 pitch off Seattle closer Brandon League to right center, scoring Jason Kipnis from third with the game-winner.
Santana worked the count full off of League with the bases loaded before the Cleveland Indians' catcher lined the next pitch into the outfield, plating Kipnis for the 6-5 win in the 11th inning.
Working deep into the count is nothing new to Santana, as he routinely works pitchers deep into counts, forcing them to make a mistake and throw him something hitttable.
That's exactly what happened on Thursday with the bases loaded as the Tribe's catcher took League's first pitch for a ball, then fouled off the next two to put himself in a 1-2 hole. Santana watched the next two miss the plate to make the count full, setting up another walk-off hit by Santana.
Santana made League pay for his inability to throw strikes. League threw only nine of 26 pitches for strikes, walked three and added a wild pitch.
For a third-year, 26-year-old power-hitter, Santana shows remarkable plate discipline. The three stats that typify his patience at the plate are his OBP, pitches seen per plate appearance and walk rank.
The good news? He could improve this stat by cutting down on his above-average strikeout totals. Currently Santana has 33 strikeouts and is on pace to whiff 130-140 times, which is slightly high taking into account Baseball-Reference.com's calculations of averages per 600 plate appearances. Santana currently has 153 PAs in 35 games played.
You have to allow for some strikeouts with a power hitter, so Santana's strikeouts aren't completely out of line, but they could be reduced nonetheless.
Pitches Per Plate Appearance
Santana ranks sixth in MLB in this category at 4.38 pitches per plate appearance and is helping the Indians to a team rank of fifth in the majors at 3.92.
This a key stat as it shows that Santana displays patience and the ability to foul off good pitches and the discipline to let errant pitches go by, which in turn allows him to capitalize on pitchers' mistakes, which he did against League on Thursday.
Not only do walks provide more scoring opportunities for the Indians, they also drive up starters' pitch counts, which could force the opposition to go to their bullpen earlier than wanted.
As shown by the above three stats, Carlos Santana shows very good discipline for a young, relatively inexperienced major leaguer with power. This allows him to wait for a good pitch with which he can do damage and deliver game-winning hits such as he did against the Mariners on Thursday.
Santana has been a key reason why the Tribe has shown improved team-wide plate discipline, and both he and the Indians need to continue to do so if they want to hold on to first-place in the AL Central.