by John Viril—
We know Kansas City’s Ervin Santana dominated the Twins on Monday. Seven strikeouts, 1 earned run and 1 walk in 8.0 IP is an outstanding day in any pitcher’s book. What was even more encouraging was his pitch f/x data.
As regular readers of my blog know, many pundits questioned Santana’s arm health over the winter. They pointed to 2 mph of lost velocity during the course of last season as their primary evidence. Some claimed him an injury waiting to happen. Others attributed his 39 gopher balls from last season to his dying fastball.
In his first start against Chicago, Ervin Santana not only gave up 3 Home Runs, he also averaged a soft 90.1 mph on his “heater”. Two of his home runs came on grooved 89 mph pitches that caught way too much of the strike zone. His 8 strikeouts in six innings of work did little to allay injury fears (including mine).
Monday’s start changed all that. His fastball velocity zoomed back up to a healthy 93.1 mph as Santana tossed 104 total pitches over 8 innings. He threw 50% fastballs, 46.1% sliders and 3.9% change-ups. He’s pretty much a fastball/slider pitcher with an occasional change-up, which I suspect might be sliders that do not break and are identified by f/x equipment as change-ups.
Both Santana’s fastball and slider showed strong horizontal movement. The fastball tails, which allows him a weapon to use against opposite side batters. Ervin Santana’s “out” pitch is the slider—and it was nasty on Monday, rating a 4.4 horizontal movement. When he has both movement and command, Santana is going to dominate.
We all know it’s still way too early in the season to attach significance to one good performance. But, at least we can be assured that Ervin Santana’s starting the season with a reasonably healthy arm—unless his 93.1 mph average was due to a “hot” gun at Kauffman Stadium.
Dang, those proverbial 27-years of frustration must be getting to me if I won’t let myself be happy after an 8-inning 1-run outing in April.
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