“Santana.”By: Brendan Bilko
Back on February 18th, Johan Santana uttered his own surname when asked who the best pitcher was in the National League East. Mets fans everywhere gave a semblance of “damn straight,” while rival counterparts down the turnpike certainly thought the exact opposite. While there is no pitcher in the game I would rather watch throw a baseball than Johan, this argument has its merit. Roy Halladay is more than just “in the conversation” for many; he’s the proper answer.
In honor of Santana’s first start of spring, I went ahead and made some comparison charts of the two adversaries. The data, all acquired at FanGraphs, is a look at their K/9, BB/9, HR/9 and FIP number from 2006 – 2010 (all 2010 numbers are CHONE projections). One important thing to remember is that prior to last season when Johan lost 8 – 10 starts at the end of the year due to the elbow injury, both pitchers averaged around 229IP from 2006 – 2008.
Oddly enough, we see Halladay’s K/9 ratio has risen since he has entered his thirties. Johan on the other hand, who turns 31 in a few days, has been on the decline. Many thought Johan’s numbers would spike with the transition to the National League in 2008, but such hasn’t been the case. CHONE projections for 2010 show both pitchers should expect slightly better numbers this season, with Johan still coming out on top.
K/9 on the decline and BB/9 on the rise, such is the case for Johan. Naturally this is cause for concern, though we need to remember that last year the man was pitching in discomfort and was unable to follow through completely. Fast forward to this spring. Santana has said he isn’t experiencing any pain, and that he is able to finish his pitches. This should prompt much better control, and if anything, I would expect this ratio to improve as opposed to CHONE’s projected rise.
Johan pitches to the fly ball (career FB% – 42.8%) and Roy pitches to the ground ball (career GB% – 56.2%). Fly balls leave the park sometimes (HR/FB ration of 9.5% for Santana) and ground balls, well, don’t.
Unfortunately for Johan FIP doesn’t really treat him as well as it should. The metric is slightly flawed for a fly ball pitcher of his caliber, as it treats all home runs with the same value. Santana gave up 20 bombs in limited time last year, though amazing enough 16 of those were solo shots. Naturally Roy gives up less home runs and his FIP reflects that.
Needless to say, both of these men are in a league of their own. Having the two of them in the National League East is a real treat, and fans of both teams have some excellent pitcher’s duels to look forward to this season. We’ll revisit this as the season moves on, possibly including some different metrics. For now let’s all focus on our ace’s first start this afternoon. Happy Johan Santana Day everyone.