Should We Be Worried About Johan?
May 3, 2010
There are certain players on this team that deserve our concern. The list is long and obvious.
One of the few players that should be ommitted from this list is Johan Santana. However, Johan’s inconsistencies thus far may be alarming if looked at in a certain way.
What do we know as fact? Johan is coming off of elbow surgery. It was only an arthroscopic procedure to remove “bone chips”, but surgery is surgery. This marks the second consecutive off-season in which he is recovering from some type of surgical procedure.
Secondly, his velocity is beginning to become a bit of a concern. Yesterday’s 91-92 mph fastball mark doesn’t look so bad, especially when it is compared to the 87-88 mph range he reached last Wednesday. We also witnessed a complete lack of control by Santana yesterday, exemplified by a bases-loaded walk to 47-year-old Jamie Moyer to force in a run. We all know that Johan’s history shows us that control has never been a problem for him. I think his career statistics have earned him the benefit of the doubt here that he will rebound from this blip on his screen. So, what is the major concern then? ESPN’s broadcast yesterday showed a very interesting statistic in regards to Santana. Apparently, his velocity differentials have decreased progressively of the last 6 years. For example, in 2004 (his most dominant season) his peak fastball was clocked at 95 mph, while his changeup was recorded as 81 mph on average. That is a differential of 14 mph. Currently, his fastball is averaging 90 mph while his changeup hovers around 80 mph. That is a differential of only 10 mph. Santana has always been a master of keeping hitters off balance, which explains why the changeup has always been his best friend. However, these numbers illustrate a decrease in the differential velocity of his pitches, which can be looked at as an alarming trend for Johan.
Ultimately, it could be his health that is playing a role here. There is no way for fans like us to know for sure. Perhaps he will get healthier as the season progresses. If that occurs, his pitch speed differential will improve, as will his effectiveness.
The negative here is that it could be injuries catching up with Santana, which would be a devastasting blow to the Mets of 2010 and beyond. After all, he is the one guy that is supposed to be a certainty in this rotation. No one wants to throw him into that uncertain barrel with the rest of the starting rotation. Is he there yet? I think not. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he never gets to that point.