Friday, May 23, 2008

Whither Johan?

There was a subtle (or not-so-subtle depending on your acuity) murmur as Johan was being shopped this winter that he's already into a decline. Maybe the Yanks and Sox were listening more intently rather than more confident in their prospects. Maybe the Mets knew this, too, but decided to take the leap. We'll never know, but, as Buster Olney notes, the decline is real and becomming more obvious. {Insider access required for full access} [Note: I graphed Buster's data, since I am indeed a geek who likes to see data visually.]

After the item on Johan Santana's diminished velocity was posted here yesterday, some scouts from other teams chimed in, indicating through e-mails and phone calls that they were seeing the same thing. "The Mets were asking around about that in spring training, about what his true [velocity] baseline was," said one talent evaluator. "They were concerned."

Said an AL scout who has seen Santana this month: "His stuff isn't even close to what it was [with the Twins]."

With that said, here are the primary indicators:

  • His ratio of strikeouts per nine innings over the last six seasons has been 11.38, 9.61, 10.46, 9.25, 9.44, 9.66. This year: 7.79.

  • His strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last six seasons: 2.80, 3.60, 4.91, 5.29, 5.21, 4.52. This year: 3.87.

  • Opponents' OPS over the last six seasons: .607, .642, .564, .594, .616, .678. This year: .723.
As I wrote a lot about during the winter of Santana trade talks, rival talent evaluators saw a noticeable -- not dramatic, but noticeable -- decline in his stuff after his 17-strikeout performance against Texas on Aug. 19. He's made 17 starts since then, and here are his primary numbers:

  • Innings: 111
  • Hits: 109
  • Earned runs: 50
  • Home runs: 20 (By comparison, Paul Byrd has allowed 21 during the same span)
  • Walks: 28
  • Strikeouts: 102
  • ERA: 4.05
(Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Santana has allowed 44 home runs -- most in the majors.)
Santana's historically been a better second half pitcher than first half, so if I were the Mets or a Mets fan, I would not be panicking yet. But, I'll tell ya, I'd be nervous.


themarksmith said...

I concur. While I love that Johan is sliding and having a not so-Johan start because I am a Braves fan, I don't want to see him in August and September.

Anonymous said...

i'd encourage some patience with johan. anecdotally, the weather has been very cool and johan is used to pitching indoors. plus, there's an adjustment to moving to a new league.

and just a quick run of the numbers for april and may from 2004 - 2008 shows that johan's 3.36 era this year is second only to his 3.21 at the end of may last year. his k/9 is where it was in may 2004.

during johan's dominant seasons (2004-06), his era at the end of may was 5.70, 3.72, and 3.48 respectively. he's given up the about the same # of hrs thru may as he typically does. so while there are certainly signs to watch (decreased velocity), i'd be hesitant to worry too much about this guy.

his is a breakdown of santana's april and may numbers by year:
whip era k/9 hr
2008 1.18 3.36 7.79 11

2007 1.08 3.21 10.73 12

2006 1.13 3.48 9.60 9

2005 0.97 3.72 10.92 8

2004 1.52 5.70 8.10 11

themarksmith said...

Wow, I didn't know that. Interesting. With some of the seasons he's had you almost think he never has a bad month, week, day, ...

Jason said...

good stuff, rrrii.

as I mentioned in the last paragraph "Santana's historically been a better second half pitcher than first half"

thanks for putting the numbers behind it.