Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ervin Santana and the Curious Case of the Missing Velocity

Santana got shelled last night, making 3 outs on 12 batters faced. He was charged with 7 runs on 9 hits, including a homer, and managed to throw 37 pitches.

What the hell happened?

Well, either Ervin is turning into the younger, less effective Magic of 2007, or there's something physical afoot. Let's take a look at some Fangraphs data.

During the 2008 season, Santana's average fastball velocity was third-best in the majors at 94.8 mph. Combined with a slider that averaged 84.2 mph, Santana's control finally caught up to his stuff, and he had the best season of his career. However, over his first two starts of 2009, his average fastball velocity is down to 91.1 and his slider's at 81. His changeup, normally around 85, is now near 87.

Interestingly, he seems to be getting more movement on all of his pitches. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much that's helping. It's important to note that Santana is currently getting screwed by a .482 (!) BABIP, which is completely unsustainable for a major league pitcher with any sort of talent. I suspect most of that is derivative from the Chicago game.

Of course, this is all attached to a small sample size warning, as Santana has only pitched 12.2 innings so far. At the same time, there are distinctly few pitchers who have moved from power to finesse successfully, and Santana does not have the baseball IQ necessary to successfully accomplish such a switch.

Velocity is a tricky thing, mostly because it's so dependent on pitcher "feel." If Ervin's not comfortable with his elbow yet, he's probably not going to throw with 100% confidence and his velocity will suffer. I suspect this might be the case, as he's throwing twice as many changeups as he did last season, and these changeups are replacing both fastballs and sliders, both of which are better pitches.

If his velocity stays down after about 50 innings, the Angels might want to take a peak into his elbow and see if Tommy John seems like a good idea. Much of Santana's success comes from his slider, and as previously discussed, the slider is really tough on the UCL in the elbow.

Weird batting line of the day: Alexei Ramirez, 7 AB, 4 H, 3 RBI, 7 LOB ...that's ridiculous.

Why I'm not worried about Texas (yet): Harrison, 5 IP, 11 H, 7 ER ...pitching's a bitch.


I didn't catch the game as I was driving back to Boston from LBI, but from what I understand, they looked tired. And looking at the box score, I'm inclined to agree. With a team as tall as the Lakers (why do they prefer "long" to "tall" in the NBA?), you don't tend to see a -18 rebounding margin, and a -11 on the offensive boards. As such, I'm not tremendously worried. All the Lakers need to do now is win their home games and they can start preparing for the Finals.

Which isn't to say I expect them to make the Finals, but it'd be nice if a team I liked won something. Or at least had the opportunity to win something.

Other problems with the Lakers: Kobe shooting 10 threes and making 2, Derek Fisher playing 23 minutes and shooting 5 threes (making 1), Pau Gasol only getting 11 shots from the field, Andrew Bynum only picking up 7 boards despite 14 points and 5 fouls in 23 minutes.

  • This blog averages about 10 unique visitors a day. Yesterday, it hit 50 in 12 hours. Gotta love HH.
  • Dumb, although I'm inclined to agree. I guess we'll see tonight.
  • Still no blog updates (shocking, I know), but Thiessen is apparently enjoying his time in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Go Pens, I guess...frankly, anyone but the Ducks/Bruins can win and you'll hear no whining from this Kings fan.
  • The Padres are...over .500? The hell is going on?
  • The drive from southern New Jersey to Boston is long but not tremendously miserable. That said, Massachusetts is cheating, as far as I'm concerned. If I can't dress up like a cop, then cops shouldn't be able to dress up like me. Unmarked state police vehicles for the sole purpose of revenue generation should be illegal.
  • Next floor hockey game is June 4th. I'm trying to get some goalie pads before then.

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