It’s easy to make fun of the Kansas City Royals. They never win, the national media never pays attention, and they rarely excite anyone. Therefore, when they recently added Ervin Santana, coming off his worst season, there likely wasn’t a scintilla of attention paid to the move other than to mock the Royals for taking on Santana at $12 million in 2013. Were the Royals foolish or sly like a fox in picking up the righty?
2012: 9-13, 5.16 ERA, 133 Ks, 1.27 WHIP in 178 innings.
(1) After throwing 220+ innings in 2010-11 Santana dipped to 178 innings in 2012.
(2) His win total was a three year low (17 and 11).
(3) His ERA was abysmal and the second worst mark of his career (5.76 in 2007). He was more than two runs worse than he was in 2010-11 when he posted a 3.65 mark over 451.1 innings.
(4) After seasons of 169 and 178 Ks his total fell all the way down to 133.
(5) He allowed 39 homers, a career worst total (previous that mark was 27).
So the Royals are moronic in thinking this situation will reverse itself in 2013, or are they? Let’s start at the end.
Santana has long been homer prone allowing at least 23 homers each year from 2007-12, but he had never been above 27 before last seasons shellacking. Think of it like this. Per nine innings he allowed 1.09 and 1.02 homers in 2010-11, but somehow last season that number doubled to 1.97. On the surface that makes no sense, and when we talk about the actual number, 1.97 is insanely high. Given that his career mark is 1.24 it stands to reason that his homer total could dip by 10 or more in 2013. This should be aided by three things. (1) Common sense. (2) Regression to the mean. (3) Fly balls. One would think that given such a massive homer total that Ervin allowed a crap ton, a highly scientific term, of fly balls. Simply, he didn’t. Not only did he not allow a crap ton of fly balls, he actually allowed fewer fly balls than at any point in his career. He had a career best with a 37.3 fly ball rate, just one percent above the league average. So if he allowed fewer fly balls than ever before how did he allow all the homers? His HR/F ratio was obnoxiously high at 18.9 percent. If you combine his mark from 2010 (9.2) and 2011 (10.1) you end up at 19.3 percent, barely higher than his mark last season. He also owns a career mark of 10.1 percent, right on the big league average. The bottom line is that he simply didn’t “earn” all those home runs. Some were the result of bad pitches, but it would also seem like he left his rabbit’s foot at home when he pitched.
Beyond the homer situation that simply must turn around, there are a few indicators that show that Ervin pitched as well as he usually does in 2012 despite the results.
(1) His line drive rate of 19.5 percent was one tenth above his career mark. I already mentioned his career low fly ball rate which led to a 1.16 GB/FB ratio, again the best of his career.
(2) His 6.72 K/9 mark was a six year low, but his mark was in the 6.80′s in 2009 and 2010 and his career mark is 7.12 so we’re not talking about a major drop off.
(3) His 3.08 BB/9 mark was a five year high but given that his carer mark is 2.90 it’s well within the realm of the expected.
(4) His 1.27 WHIP was below his career 1.30 mark.
(5) His BABIP was actually a career best at .241 (career .284). If guys hadn’t taken him deep as often, the results of his season would have likely been very different.
(6) Finally, two advanced measures for ERA. His xFIP was 4.48 just above his career 4.32 mark. His SIERA was 4.35 just above his career 4.20 mark (SIERA is the newest iteration of xFIP).
So is Ervin Santana worth $12 million? Even in this crazy environment the answer is obviously no. Did the Royals obviously blunder in adding him to their organization? The answer is again no. Just the cursory look I ran through above should point out that Santana is nowhere near as bad a pitcher as it appears he was last year. In fact, many of the lead indicators to judge a pitcher’s performance were the same as they always were with Santana. What this means, at least to this scribe, is that Santana will be a solid option in the reserve rounds of drafts next season. You can’t just ignore what happened, after all he was horrible in 2012, but there is enough left in this skill set to suggest that spending a late round selection on Santana in mixed league drafts in 2013 might just net you a tidy return.
By Ray Flowers