On June 30th of 2012, Mets’ starting pitcher Johan Santana had a 2.76 ERA. That means halfway through the year his ERA was under three. By the time his season ended in mid August his ERA was 4.85. What happened over the course of his last five starts was legendary (he was shutdown for good after his August 17th outing). Santana allowed at least six earned runs in each of his last five starts as he went 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA. Moreover, after throwing a career-high 134 pitches in his no-hitter on June 1st Santana dropped seven of 10 decisions with a 8.27 ERA and 1.76 WHIP while averaging less than five innings a start. Where does that leave Santana’s value heading into the 2013 season?
Johan Santana hurt his shoulder, and as we have seen repeatedly, shoulder injuries are much dicier than elbow issues. Santana’s shoulder issue precluded him from throwing a single pitch during the 2011 big league season so it shouldn’t have surprised many that he was only able to reach 117 innings last season. Did you listen when I warned against drafted Santana last February in One of Those Days where, to quote myself, I wrote the following: “Newsflash everyone. Santana will never again be the pitcher he once was.” Let me be a bit more clear. Here are Johan’s innings pitched marks the past four years: 166.2, 199, zero and 117. Three of the past four years he hasn’t reached 170 innings, and the last time he tossed 200 innings was 2008. At 33, with a wonky shoulder, what are the odds he tosses 200 innings in 2013? I know the Mets are saying that they believe he will be able to carry a full workload this year, but that’s just crazy talk if you ask me.
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So what happened last year? The Mets allowed Santana to get the first no hitter in franchise history, but they paid a dear price. Santana, as I noted above, was never the same pitcher thereafter. You can say ‘coincidence’ and maybe you are right, but the data certainly is pretty overwhelming that throwing those 134 pitches just wiped him out. Taking a look at the rest of his 2012 season, the Mets really blew it. Johan made 21 starts last season. Only seven times, one third of his outings, did he throw even 100 pitches. The Mets were very careful not to allow him to throw too many pitches, and when they limited his pitch count he was very effective. However, that one slip up throwing those 134 pitches certainly appears to have been his downfall. Does that mean the Mets will use him as a 5-6 inning guy this season? Obviously that could cut into his win potential if they chose to deploy him that way.
Some other facts to consider with Santana.
His ERA in 2012 was an 11 year high.
His WHIP was a 10 year high.
His 3.00 BB/9 mark was a nine year high.
His 2.85 K/BB ratio was his second worst mark of the past nine years.
His 1.31 HR/9 mark was the second worst mark of his career.
For the third straight year he failed to post a GB/FB ratio of 0.80. He allows an awful lot of fly balls.
Finally, everyone loves to down Tim Lincecum for his lost velocity, but I wonder how many noticed that Johan has lost almost 4.5 mph from his heyday off his heater (it was a career low 88.4 mph last year)?
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On the plus side…
His 8.54 K.9 rate was a four season best, though still below his 8.83 career mark.
His 3.00 BB/9 mark was still below the league average, and his 2.85 K/BB ratio were still a half batter better than the league average. They might be bad numbers for Santana, but they are fine for a normal hurler.
His line drive rate was 24.0 percent. Even if his stuff is no longer elite that’s a huge number for a guy who owns a career mark under 20 percent.
His HR/F ratio of 11.7 percent was the second worst mark of his career, well above his 9.2 career rate. Some normalization there would help.
The Mets are putting on a brave face saying that they think Johan will be good to go for Opening Day and that he will make 30 starts this season (they had better hope they are right since he is due $25 million this year with another $25 next season unless they buy out his 2014 campaign for $5.5 million). I’m not sold. As an aging hurler with lots of miles on his arm I’m concerned. Add in the shoulder woes he’s dealt with and the historic collapse he tossed out there at the end of last season and you too should be very concerned. There’s nothing wrong with taking a chance on Johan, he still knows how to “pitch,” but with all the issues surrounding him right now he had better be a reserve round type in mixed leagues and not someone you are counting on heavily in 2013.
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By Ray Flowers