If you’re going to give up home runs, solo shots are the way to go. Managers often laugh off solo home runs when the pitcher’s team has a comfortable lead, say five or six runs, and the focus is on throwing strikes and getting outs. But when said team is scoreless in the game and struggling offensively the way the Angels have this year, it’s another story. You’d think that Ervin Santana would be a bit careful considering the Angels hadn’t scored at all in the last two games he started. Still, with nobody on base it’s only one run so when the first batter he faced on Tuesday homered it was no big deal. But one times four is four so when Santana gave up four solo home runs he put the Angels down 4-0. He ended up allowing five earned runs to bring his ERA through four games to 7.23. His record is a dazzling 0-4.
The four home runs allowed brought his total for the year to 10 in 24 innings and assuming he matches the 225 innings he’s averaged the last two years Santana is on a pace to allow 94 home runs this year. His total home runs allowed in March/April from 2005 – 2011, seven seasons, is 33 for an average of 4.7 per season in the first month. With 10 so far this year and another start left in April, Santana looks headed for a very poor year. On the other hand, he does tend to allow more home runs in the first half of the season, with 103 of 174 over his career. In fact, for those of us that rely on basic stats, Santana appears to be a better pitcher in the second half.
His performance so far this year is unsurprising to me in some ways but a bit of a shock in others. Statistics show clearly that Santana’s performance is erratic, but for whatever reason even numbered years are generally very good. He has played in four odd numbered years and three even numbered years in the majors.
In four odd years Santana’s cumulative Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is 60% of the total of three even years. In even years he is a decent #2 starter and in odd years he’s a #5. Quite a difference. Add in that Santana's team option for 2013 is $13MM with a $1MM buyout plus Garrett Richard’s presence in the wings, and Santana is possibly looking at his last year with the Angels. That’s if he remains on the team. The way it looks right now, the Angels will be sellers at the deadline and even average pitching is always at a premium at the deadline, whether the year is even or odd.
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