In 2006, Steve Trachsel tied Tom Gl@v!ne for the Mets' team lead in wins with 15. This total was one win behind the National League lead (six different pitchers had only 16 victories each). That factoid itself illustrates that victories are one of the most misleading statistics to determine a pitcher's value.
Here's a look at some of Johan Santana's starts this season:
April 6th @ Atlanta - 7 innings, 1 earned run allowed, LOSS
April 29th vs. Pittsburgh - 5.2 innings, 2 hits, 2 earned runs, no decision
May 4th @ Arizona - 6 innings, 1 earned run, 8 strikeouts, no decision
May 22nd @ Atlanta - 7 innings, 3 earned runs, LOSS
June 6th @ San Diego - 6 innings, 1 earned run, LOSS
June 12th vs. Arizona - 7 innings, 3 hits, zero earned runs, 10 strikeouts, no decision
June 23rd vs. Seattle - 7 innings, 1 earned run, LOSS
July 4th @ Philadelphia - 8 innings, 2 earned runs, no decision
July 22nd vs Philadelphia - 8 innings, 2 earned runs, no decision
August 2nd @ Houston - 6.1 innings, 3 hits, 1 earned run, no decision
August 7th vs. San Diego - 7 innings, 2 earned runs, no decision
Any major league starting pitcher knows to expect an occasional outing where he'll pitch well and not get the win, or even to get tagged with an undeserved loss. But this many quality starts with nothing to show for it is mind-boggling. Let's toss out the May 22nd game against the Braves. Although that technically qualifies as a "quality start", Johan allowed a career-high 12 hits in the game, and was anything but sharp. That still leaves ten games that most pitchers would consider a good day's work, and a miserable collective 0-4 record to show for it.
His 2.86 ERA puts him fifth in the NL. His 135 K's place him seventh in that category in the league. If those losses listed above are turned into no-decisions, and the no-decisions are turned into wins, Santana's record is 16-4, he's leading all of baseball in wins, and we're talking Cy Young talk.
To his credit, Santana's held his tongue about the situation. The most demonstrative he's been to date has been his refusal to stay on the mound, as is the custom now in the Jerry Manuel era, after getting pulled from his last start in the eighth inning. Anyone who's worked on a project in a small group knows that one person usually does most of the work, another one helps out a little bit, and the rest sit around with their thumbs hidden from sunlight. It has to be wearing on Johan's psyche that his exits this year have, more often that not, been followed by a conga line of schlubs.
As little support as Johan's had last year from the Twins' bats, he's never had a collection of middle relievers implode in his wake as often as the guys on this team. Still, if he can keep his focus on doing his job as best he can, and perhaps force his skipper to pry the ball from his hand the next time he's told to come out, that second-half surge Santana has been famous for throughout his career will result in plenty more happy recaps.