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Johan Santana’s Performance Allows Mets to Dream for a Day



By Mike Silva ~ March 7th, 2012. Filed under: New York Mets.

Valley Fever, strained rib cages, declining payroll and the Madoff clawback lawsuit have been much talked about topics around Port St. Lucie this spring; especially the last week. There will be plenty of time for gloom and doom this year, but yesterday Johan Santana gave the Mets and their fans a ray of hope in an otherwise cloudy start to the season.

Johan Santana’s 2012 exhibition debut might be the most talked about spring training start in Mets history. If this team has any shot of seriously thinking playoffs a return to form for Santana is a must. His health is necessary if they have any thoughts of just finishing .500.

Everyone will talk velocity and command, but the real story is that he made the start and reported no ill effects after. This is an important step, albeit a small one, for a pitcher that is returning from an injury that has no history of success.

Mark Prior is the worst case scenario, as he’s yet to throw a big league pitch since he went down in 2006. Chien-Ming Wang offers some hope, as he finally returned to the mound last season after a two year hiatus.

What can be expected of Santana? Hard to predict, but I already have gone on record saying he won’t be on the opening day roster. I believe anyone that doesn’t take the “under” on 25 starts is looking at this injury through a blue and orange prism. But there is plenty of time for that cold reality. Let’s assume Santana can stay healthy and give the team about 160 innings and 25 starts. What is reasonable to expect?

On a bum shoulder in 2010 he won 11 games and pitched to a 2.98 ERA. He also performed at an ace-level the two years prior on a bum knee and balky elbow. He’s proven to be a warrior, a competitor. He’s someone that will fight through pain and maximize whatever a diminished repertoire provides. Remember, this is a pitcher that had a 93-mph fastball his final season in Minnesota. Even at his best, he’s lived around 90-mph as a Met. The real question is not whether his fastball will return- we all know it won’t- but can he command his pitches. Can he get the right velocity differentiation in his changeup and bite on his slider.

Let’s look at Chien-Ming Wang. For all the talk about Wang’s diminished fastball, he wasn’t all that different a pitcher (4.04 ERA, 1.2 WHIP) during his 11 starts in Washington last season. He doesn’t keep the ball down as well as during his early career peak, but his 53.4% groundball percentage still put him among the best in baseball among qualified leaders. His 96 ERA+ was down from the 108 he produced as a Yankee.

Can Santana win 12 games and pitch to a 3.50 ERA? Could he produce a similar line to what we have seen from R.A. Dickey that last two seasons? History tells us that if Santana has some semblance of health, he will. Getting on the mound is the million dollar question, not performance. Great players have a way of overcoming physical obstacles to perform. Remember how everyone wrote Carlos Beltran off at this time a year ago?

If so, the Mets would have 4 starters that could provide middle of the rotation output. That should be good enough to keep them in most games. It still puts them towards the bottom of the NL East, but it’s not their fault the division boosts some of the best talent in the National League.

It was only two innings. The Mets have suffered so much bad news the last three years that small victories can’t be overlooked. Spring training is the time of the year when you are allowed to dream. Johan Santana gave the Mets reason to finally do that with his performance yesterday.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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11 Responses to Johan Santana’s Performance Allows Mets to Dream for a Day

  1. tnt

    mets can go 81-81 and still finish last in division.

  2. Chuck Johnson

    I have to say this surprises me, when a guy shuts himself down in October and announces he won’t even pick up a ball until January, you have to think he’s hiding something. Especially when he blows off the chance to prove himself in winter ball.

    The awkward throw he made to second on the DP showed more than anything he did on the mound, to see him smiling after the play was a good sign.

    Time will tell, obviously, going forward, but this was way more than I expected to see this early.

    Now, if you all will excuse me, I have to go wipe egg off my face.

  3. Joseph DelGrippo

    Check out this image on the front page from Johan’s start yesterday:

    http://mlb.mlb.com/index.jsp

    The arm action shows me that this pain-free Santana will be short lived. That picture screams shoulder injury.

  4. Stu B

    That’s his natural pitching motion.

  5. Chuck Johnson

    “That’s his natural pitching motion”

    Which explains his previous injuries.

  6. tnt

    does it really matter how he throws?if he shows he is healthy,then they are going to try to dump him,same with bay and wright,so what do you root for,injury and he stays here longer or healthy and out the door?(while probably paying half his salary)

  7. Stu B

    “Which explains his previous injuries.”

    If that were true, then most pitchers would be on the DL. Pitching is a very unnatural series of motions that put a lot of strain on shoulders and elbows, but most pitchers manage to survive.

  8. Chuck Johnson

    “If that were true, then most pitchers would be on the DL”

    How so?

    You’re right that pitching is an unnatural motion, but there is still a right way to do it, which in the long run doesn’t necessarily guarantee a pitcher won’t get hurt, but certainly lessens the chances.

  9. Joseph DelGrippo

    Stu B.

    Of course every pitcher puts strian on the elbow and shoulder, but that does not indicate every pitcher is destined for surgery and a career full of injuries.

    Read my recent piece on Santana again. Look at his arm action, then look at the mechanics of Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander and compare them to Santana.

    There is a HUGE difference and the way Santana throws (and Jake Peavy) puts extra strain on the arm, especially the shoulder.

    Guys who lead back with their hands have less stress on their arms then guys who lead back with their elbows (lke Johan).

    Also, guys who “stick” their throwing arms in which they drop their throwing arm right away (like David Wells and CC Sabathia) also have a very low incidence of arm injuries.

  10. Stu B

    I remember reading that. Thanks.

  11. Chuck Johnson

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/

    This is a picture of Lucas Giolito, a high school pitcher who’s hit 100 on the gun and was a leading contender to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft.

    I say “was” because Giolito suffered a partially torn UCL and will miss the rest of the season and his status for the draft is in question.

    The reason for his injury is clear by the picture.

    If you look at the bottom right of the picture, you can clearly see his weight has shifted to his plant foot and his belt buckle is pointing towards home plate, as it should.

    The problem is in his upper half, he’s clearly using his chest to pull his arm forward instead of allowing his shoulders to follow his hips (giveaway: spine angle).

    This causes his arm to lag behind which causes two things the picture clearly shows..how far his hand is behind his head, and the angle of his hand to his elbow.

    You can actually SEE the strain in the front of the elbow, where the UCL is located.

    A pitcher throwing 100 isn’t all that impressive when he has crappy mechanics.

    This kid just lost millions.

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