DETROIT -- The Indians enjoyed one of their best offensive showings of the season on Sunday. Cleveland's lineup churned out a dozen runs in a rout of the Mariners, and eight players in the starting lineup had at least one hit and one run scored.
The lone exception was slugger Edwin Encarnacion. He reached base once via walk, but saw his rough April end with an 0-for-4 showing against Seattle. It was the final entry in another poor first month for the designated hitter, who is no stranger to slow starts in his career.
"I don't think about that," Encarnacion said through team translator Anna Bolton prior to Monday's game in Detroit. "It seems like things don't go so well for me in April, but then they get better."
Fans in Toronto grew accustomed to Encarnacion's slow Aprils, as it was a trend throughout the past seven seasons north of the border. In Cleveland, things have been a bit more magnified, as Encarnacion put on an Indians uniform over the offseason as the biggest free-agent signing ($60 million guaranteed over three years) in franchise history.
Slow starts are nothing new for Encarnacion. Here's a look at this year, compared to previous five seasons, and how he ended each campaign. pic.twitter.com/rSQ6Hdwy5W
In his first April with the Tribe, Encarnacion hit .200 with four home runs and nine RBIs, though he led the team with 17 walks and posted a .343 on-base percentage. Among the team's current hitters, Encarnacion also headed into May with the highest average exit velocity (91 mph), according to Statcast™. So, while the batting average and slugging percentage have suffered, he has reached base and made hard contact.
Indians manager Terry Francona cited Encarnacion's pitch recognition as an issue in the season's first month.
"He's had periods where he looks like he's starting to kind of get it, and then he's fallen back," Francona said. "He's been a typically slow starter. I'm telling you, and I get it, he's hitting .200, but as cold as he got, he'll get just as hot. He's healthy and he's really good. It's just not been his best month. A lot of Aprils are like that for him."
Encarnacion swung and missed at 9% of all pitches in 2016. Rate has jumped to 12.5% one month into '17. Heatmap of his swinging strikes: pic.twitter.com/j14OyDPgD0
To that end, Encarnacion's .696 OPS in April this year is almost identical to the OPS he posted last April (.694) with the Blue Jays. The slugger ended the season with an .886 OPS and a 134 weighted Runs Created Plus -- meaning he was 34 percent better than a league-average hitter -- after posting an 84 wRC+ in April.
Encarnacion has a 19.6 career strikeout percentage in April, compared to a 15.8 strikeout percentage in the other months combined. In April this year, Encarnacion posted a 33 percent strikeout rate and swung and missed at 12.5 percent of all pitches, per Statcast™. A year ago, he whiffed on nine percent of all pitches.
"I'm confident that I'll be able to find my swing," Encarnacion said. "I think they're still pitching me the same that they've always pitched me. I'm the one that has to make the adjustments. I think that's what needs to happen."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.