Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Consistency and Ervin Santana

The phrase "consistency" as it is generally used in baseball makes me want to strangle Joe Buck with the remains of Joe Morgan's reputation. It's a meaningless term. I don't think a single baseball writer/commentator/personality has any idea what consistency actually is.

For example, during the 2007 season, Ervin Santana was not, as Mike Scioscia put it, "inconsistent." He was actually very consistent, getting shelled in every start. In 2006, when his only good starts were at home at night, he was labeled "inconsistent." Wrong, he was consistently bad on the road and consistently good at home. You can be bad and still be consistent.

But I digress. Let's take a look at who should be consistently named the best pitcher in the Angels' starting rotation, Mr. Ervin "El Meneo" Santana.

Santana pitched a career-high 219 innings during the 2008 season. Although his previous career high was 204 innings in 2006, he pitched only 178 innings in 2007, with 32 of those coming at AAA Salt Lake. While Santana usually ends somewhere near the top of the list in pitcher abuse rankings, it seems as though his workload has been kept on a manageable upslope rather than a steep climb. I'm still waiting for Driveline Mechanics to report on his, well, mechanics.

2008 was a phenomenal year for the 26 year old righthander. He managed to work out whatever earlier-season issues he had with pitching during the day and on the road, and managed to put up a very impressive 3.37 tRA (leage tRA is at 4.87), slightly better than his expected tRA* of 3.83. Ervin is a very, very good pitcher, and at 26, has several years before any appreciable decline should be expected.

Santana wins when he gets his strikeouts. One metric ranks him seventh in strikeouts per 100 pitches, a stat which stresses pitch efficiency with strikeouts. In his 219 innings, he struck out 214 batters, tied for second in the AL, and giving him a ratio of 8.79 K/9, third in the AL. How does he do it? Well, he's got, on average, the third fastest fastball in MLB at 94.4 mph. He throws a nasty slider which comes in 10 mph slower, and a changeup which falls somewhere in between. Moreover, he walks only 25% of the batters he strikes out. A 4:1 ratio. Very nice.

Subjectively, Ervin has always been my favorite pitcher to watch. When he's able to get ahead in counts early in games, he starts building a cadence. His tempo gradually picks up until he's throwing strike three every two minutes and the game is over in under two hours. His only issues are mental, and he managed to sort out nearly all of them this last season. I'm excited to see what he does in 2009.

Fangraphs pegs him as having been worth $26 million last year. He made $400,000. Pay the man.

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