Monday, May 12, 2008

Digging Through Selective Journalism (Santana Edition)

I came home yesterday from playing ball, sat down with my sandwich from the deli and opened the Sunday Daily News. There was all the usual nonsense, magazines and of course shooting from the Lip by Mike Lupica. Then I happened upon an article.......... by John Harper and stopped to read it. It began:

On a day when he didn't have much brilliance, Johan Santana showed just enough toughness to get by, thanks largely to signs of life from Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. And since toughness is what the Mets seem to need most these days, maybe that's more important than throwing a gem.
Then again, in the long run this team is going to need more than six innings a start out of its ace to even think about going to a World Series. And so, much like the enigmatic Mets themselves, it's hard to know just what to make of Santana in his new digs so far.
Is he the $139 million savior, as touted, for a team in search of a killer instinct, or something less?

After reading the opening, I paused. The first paragraph didn't bother me nearly as much as the second (we all know that negativity and being critical sells more than anything else). But the second paragraph basically lumps Santana's season so far in with the Mets' - and the Mets' season has been slightly better than Mediocre. Santana has been almost in line with his career averages, and considering that Santana is a notoriously slow starter (with a career April ERA above 4.00), is now really the time for this type of article?

The article continues:

So far Santana has been good, not great. He's 4-2 and the Mets have blown a couple of potential wins for him, but in his last three starts he has gone six, six, and 5-2/3 innings, respectively, largely because of high pitch counts.

The part that gets me is the "last 3 starts" angle. Has it gotten to the point where we question the productivity of arguably the best pitcher in baseball who happens to be in a new league, playing for a team in the largest city in the world, in front of fans who booed him in his first start at home, on such a miniscule sample size? Seems to me that we have. Harper of course failed to note that over his first 5 starts, Santana went 7 innings four times and 6.2 innings once. He failed to note what I already alluded to - the fact that Santana is a notoriously slow starter. But why let perspective and facts get in the way of a story?

Towards the conclusion of his article, Harper alluded to Santana's velocity, even using the famous unnamed scout to back up his claims:

That changeup is what has made Santana one of the best pitchers in baseball, and it seems he needs it more than ever now that his fastball is usually in the 90-92 mph range, as opposed to 93-95 a couple of years ago.
"He hit 93 once today," said a National League scout at Shea, "but I had him around 90-91 on average, which is down a little from its peak. He still has a good fastball, and he's always needed his changeup to be one to dominate. He just has a little less margin for error now."

Let's look at the end of that 2nd line where it says "now that his fastball is usually in the 90-92 mph range." Harper bounces off of that line into the one by the scout to give off the impression that from now until his career ends, Santana's fastball will sit around 90-91, which is both inaccurate and reckless. If Santana had lost the ability to consistently throw 93-95, one would think that a couple of other news outlets might've picked up on that.

Either way, we've reached the point where it's safe to question and criticize a pitcher who's on pace to go 17-9 with 222 K's, a BAA of .226 and a 1.11 WHIP, and claim that after 1 so-so start in early May that he's lost the life on his fastball.

I can't wait to see the articles that pop up after Billy Wagner allows his first earned run of the year.....

1 comment:

JMD1082 said...

It just goes to show that if Santana doesn't go 7+ every time with 2 ER or less, that people will say he wasn't worth it. The thing is Santana is a smart pitcher and even when he isn't at his best he bares down and gives us a start that keeps us in the game. I think Santana has given up more than three runs once in 8 starts. With the Mets offense clicking, that kind of performance should be a win every time. Santana will heat up and then the critic will praise him like he is the Messiah.