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Alas, Poor Johan

NostraDennisFriday, August 8, 2008
By NostraDennis

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.

About Dennis McCarthy: I was born in the Bronx in 1960, but moved to Long Island four years later. I became a Mets fan in '69, thanks to my Aunt Ellen, who still lived in the Bronx.   Read More -->

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Comments (6)

dennis, the pen has surrendered 31 homers..on pace for 44.. the arson squad cost us the pennant last year..if we don't stop throwing home run balls we are going home early this year also..it's that simple.

This is why, flawed as it is as a statistic, you should hear more about quality starts than you do. It tells you more than W-L. The winning pitcher yesterday was Heilman. But this is an old problem, particularly with the Mets. Craig Swan and Jon Matlack had some terrific seasons not reflected in their W-L, and the year that Jerry Koosman lost 20, his ERA was under 3.50.

Unfortunately it is always something against him, poor run support, poor pitching behind his effort. He deserves better, hopefully they can get it together.

Gary - I was jealous of the Rays for picking up Chad Bradford. There's a delivery that makes it tough to hit a dinger.
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Dana - I recall Ron Darling was in that same category - way too many no-decisions for one man. I wonder how the Mets as a franchise rank in QSWOASV (quality starts without a starter's victory) since 1962. My gut tells me they'd be in the top five in all of baseball. Someone call Bill James.
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L.J. - The way they won Thursday doesn't negate the fact that they almost blew it. Again. I'd never before witnessed the Mets winning two games of a three game series and been so thoroughly disgusted. Where are you, ten game winning streak?

The Twinkies also had (and still have) an amazing bullpen to back up Johan. The Mets don't. Thats the difference between his Win-Loss record in Minny and NY.

Since Santana has a long-term contract, his W-L record this year doesn't matter as much as if he were playing for a new contract and needed to rack up wins to increase his value on the open market. Every Met player, fan, and employee knows how good he has been. One of the better pitchers in the league, but not a Cy Young candidate this year, even if the bullpen hadn't blown all those saves - too many homeruns given up. But I wouldn't say he's been a disappointment.

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