Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley is one of the best hitters in all of baseball this season and is seen as one of the most improved hitters.
He is sixth in the American League in batting average at .325, has only struck out 19 times in 203 at-bats, has a .369 OBP and the list goes on. He is an efficient hitter who has helped keep his team somewhat stable on offense during some rough stretches of relief pitching.
Brantley was recently put on a list by MLB.com’s Mike Petriello ranking the most improved hitters in 2018. Petriello uses an Expected wOBA metric to gauge improvement, explained here. Even if you aren’t familiar with the metric, it is clear Brantley is doing even better than he did last year before he got hurt.
He is what the article had to say about the veteran:
"This one is easy! Of course it’s health. No one’s doubted Brantley’s skills, but in recent years, he’s been so often unable to stay on the field to show them. Last year, he attempted to return from multiple shoulder woes, and got off to a good start, even making the All-Star team. But then Brantley injured his right ankle in August, ultimately requiring surgery in October. So far in 2018, only one hitter has struck out less often than Brantley’s 8.6 percent. You’ll find the only hitter ahead of him later on this list."
That strikeout percentage is something that stands out among all the other stats. In a time when strikeouts are way up and serve as a major talking point for just about everyone who discusses baseball, Brantley isn’t following the trend. Even the great Francisco Lindor already has 51 strikeouts this season in 247 at-bats. Tyler Naquin has 21 in 75 at-bats. Ok, enough of that.
Some Indians fans began the year by bemoaning the fact the Indians picked up Brantley’s option for the season. Sure looks like money well spent to me. Without Brantley, this lineup would have a major hole even with Lindor and Jose Ramirez in it.
Health is the key for Brantley once again and given he can avoid any injuries, he should remain as one of the better hitters in the league this season. I won’t say anymore to jinx it.