Smoke Signals: Michael Brantley has earned his money

Also: Edwin Encarnacion maybe breaking out at normal time

Alex Hooper
May 27, 2018 - 12:54 am
May 25, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians Michael Brantley (23) laughs with first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. during the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field.

© Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – If this is the last game Michael Brantley plays for the Indians in 2018, which could mean his last game ever in the uniform, then so be it. He has been worth the money.

Almost.

The Indians got a ton of flak for picking up the left fielder’s $12 million club option this off-season, and rightfully so. Any team pays a player to be available, and Brantley has struggled to be available for the past two seasons.

The 31-year-old has played in 40 of the team’s 50 games this season, producing 0.9 fWAR prior to Saturday’s victory over the Houston Astros. His solo home run in the 7th on Saturday could go a decent way into pushing his fWAR total to 1.0, as would his 15-game hitting streak.

The dollar value for 1 WAR in 2017 was about $10.5M, and the forecasted value for 2018 was about $11.1 million. The interpretation: what Brantley has accomplished through May 25th - not even 1/3 of the season - has been worth just under what they are paying him this season.

That being said, Fangraphs has Brantley’s dollar value entering play on Saturday at $7.2 million.

Just about everything Brantley does from this point forward is essentially playing with house money.

The numbers to this point for Brantley are eerily similar to his marks in 2014, when he finished the season as the third-place vote-getter in the AL MVP race:

2014 – 8.3 K%, .389 wOBA, 151 wRC+

2018 – 8.5 K%, .395 wOBA, 150 wRC+

The big difference to this point has been Brantley’s power, with eight home runs already and a .232 ISO. He hit 20 homers with a .178 ISO in 2014.

That season, Brantley’s estimated value from Fangraphs landed at $49.6 million.

#ParrotSZN

Victoria Day was Monday, May 21st, and if you haven’t heard, while Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, this arbitrary Canadian holiday is the unofficial start of Edwin Encarnacion’s season.

Encarnacion went a perfect 3-for-3 on Saturday, with his 11th home run of the year, a double, and three runs. It was his second straight multi-hit effort and his third three-hit night of the year. That comes on the back of a 2-for-4 night Friday.

Manager Terry Francona caught on to the trend prior to the designated hitter’s 5th inning homer.

“When Edwin hit the first ball to right… We’re always looking for a reason to be positive. He hit the first ball to right and it was such a nice swing. Then he hit the next ball to right. After that one I turned to Millsy and I said ‘he’s going to be dangerous,’” the skipper said. “And he got a pitch he could handle and drove it out of the ballpark. That’s so welcome. You could tell he was excited. He’s not the loudest guy, but I think he felt good up there tonight. That was really good to see.”

Encarnacion’s .224 batting average is his highest since April 3rd, when his season was 19 plate appearances old. His .302 OBP is his highest since April 9th.