June 17, 2010
Johan Santana(notes) beat the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Tuesday night, earning his fifth win of the year. He's pitched 92.0 innings so far this season and his fantasy ratios are excellent (3.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP). There's absolutely nothing wrong with the surface-level stats; the Santana brand remains quite strong.
But it doesn't take much digging to realize that this has not exactly been a vintage season for Johan. He's recorded exactly one strikeout in each of his last two starts, dropping his K/9 to a career-low 5.77. Meanwhile, he's averaging 2.93 walks per nine-innings — his highest rate as a starter — and the velocity of his average fastball is in a multi-year decline, from 93.1 mph in 2006 to 89.2 mph in 2010. Not surprisingly, his xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) is an unimpressive 4.70.
The Mets are obviously not unaware of Santana's issues. The New York Daily News reports that he may have encountered mechanical trouble related to last year's injuries:
Pitching coach Dan Warthen believes that Santana's issues are a result of injuries in 2009, which culminated in season-ending elbow surgery Sept. 1. "Last year he had a bunch of little nagging things," Warthen said. "And because he's the athlete that he is, he found a way to compete, and I think he made some mechanical changes to do that. This year has been about trying to get him back to where he was early last year."
After his previous start, a loss to San Diego, Santana retreated to the video room with Warthen, and the two studied his pitching motion. According to Warthen, they "felt the arm was in the right slot, but we didn't feel that he was loading the same way that he has in the past."
Santana and his handlers clearly believe the problems can be corrected, but Tuesday's start offered little evidence of improvement. As a Johan investor, I'm concerned. (Two leagues, difficult trading environments. Can't easily move him). Santana will no doubt remain a fantasy asset — we should note that he typically improves after the All-Star break — but if this were any other pitcher, we'd urge you to cash-out.
If you think that's just crazy-talk, please state your case in comments in the usual restrained, reasonable manner. One man's sell-high can be another's buy-low.
(Later, when the content becomes available, we'll enhance this post with a lively fantasy video. Please have 3D glasses ready for the most realistic Funston/Beil experience possible).
Photo via AP Images