(Statistics as of 7/7/08)This week, we'll look at one of the best pitchers in the game. Santana has been more hittable than expected in his first season in New York after being traded in the Twins in February. His fastball has been clocked at 90-93 MPH this year, down from 92-95. Santana is currently 7-7 with a 2.96 ERA, ranking fifth in the NL in innings (121.2) and ERA and sixth with 109 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP. I scout these pitchers personally, recording their velocity, pitch selection and motions by watching their games. I use the standard 20-80 scouting scale to rate pitchers. These velocities are suggestive and not determinant of a pitch's rating. For example, a 75 MPH curveball might rank as a 60 because of its movement and/or deception. Please feel free to post your thoughts below on the pitcher or the column. 80 Outstanding (96+ MPH fastball, 88+ MPH slider, 82 MPH curveball)
Rating: %Thrown: Fastball 60 55 Curveball N/A Slider 55 10 Changeup 75 35 Control 65 Delivery 60 Composure 70Santana's fastball decline could be permanent, as he has thrown 1,430 innings. My theory is that he is raising his forearm later in his delivery than he has in the past, costing him movement and command. Santana has thrown nine wild pitches, and is on track to setting a career high. Here is a picture of his delivery . I wonder whether Santana has consciously or unconsciously added the delay to raising his forearm to compensate for his declining velocity. It seems this extra movement in Santana's delivery is limiting the movement on his changeup, as it has a more conventional fade rather than its former disappearing action. He looks like he is working harder and falling off the mound more drastically. Pitchers who put more effort into their deliveries have less natural movement to their pitches. Scouts like "free and easy" motions because the pitcher will retain more of their movement and effectiveness as they age. Santana's 79-84 MPH changeup remains one of the best in the game. He is throwing it more often this year, as Peter Bendix reports in an excellent analysis. Santana's 79-84 MPH slider is an effective pitch against right-handers, but he doesn't seem to trust it against lefties, who are hitting .270 off him this year. Right-handers are at .231 but have hit 10 homers. These have come off hanging changeups and fastballs Santana leaves up. Another issue for Santana this year is his very high average allowed (.377) with the count 0-0. In the games I have seen, he has been vulnerable to hitters being aggressive with runners on base and innings snowballing. As Bendix notes, Santana is generating fewer swings and misses this year, so some of those hits on 0-0 counts have been whiffs in the past. Santana still works his fastball inside to right-handers to set up his changeup away. He can fade the change down and away from right-handers or down and in, similar to his slider. Santana is a Gold Glove fielder, very daring and fun to watch. Despite the extra funk and effort in his delivery, it is still better than average. Santana's first half was overshadowed by the Mets' 2007 collapse, their poor play that led to Willie Randolph being fired, and his own inconsistency. His 14 quality starts are tied for second in the NL, so he hasn't pitched badly. There is always something going wrong with the dysfunctional Mets. Santana priced himself out of a smaller-market team where the fans loved him and he dominated. The second half of his career looks like it will be rockier as he tries to lead an organization with an aging lineup, a poor farm system and out-of-touch ownership. ---------------- Radar Love: July fastball readings 95-97: Tony Pena in Washington on July 8th.
Next week: AL Central: Gavin Floyd
Article first appeared 7/11/08