The Bad News About the Best Pitcher in Baseball


So I'm going to rain on the parade again...

I don't have to tell you to check out G.R. Anderson's Jr., esq., superior article on Johan Santana. If you venture this way for some opinion about the noble sport, well, then you no doubt check out the longer, well-written and researched stories in this paper, too. At least I hope you do.

But I have to say that G.R.'s piece left me feeling kinda sad, especially after last-evening's troubling victory. Troubling? Yes, troubling. You might ask: how could an awesome comeback against a very-good Braves team, where the Twins flailed against their ace, went down by two runs, and then popped back in the ninth to win it 3-2 possibly trouble you?

Well, that game troubles me because it affects the subject of the aforementioned article. G.R. asks this question to open the story: "Does he (Johan) have a third Cy Young up his sleeve?"

Personally, I don't think he does. Of course, I'm about to tell you why. The reason is because Johan Santana--whom G.R. rightly posits is the best pitcher in baseball, a rarity, a once-in-a-generation hurler--won't win the Cy Young because the Cy Young is all about looking at a pitcher's statistics, determining who is the cream of the crop, and then weighing his won-lost record so heavily that that's what cops the prize. And I'm not certain our man is going to win twelve of his next twenty starts. Which is what he needs to win that coveted award.

Let's suppose Santana has his typical year--pretty good at the beginning, and then amazing in the second half. I don't say that it could happen, I'm sincerely believing that this will happen. Santana is showing no signs that he's not going to blast through this year like he has in the past. The guy's remarkably consistent, and even this year, he's looking good. Check out these stats (after fourteen starts):

In 04, Johan was 4-4 with a 4.84 ERA. 05, our ace was 7-2 with a 3.32 ERA. 06, 6-4 with a 2.99 ERA. And this year, 6-6 with a 3.19 ERA.

What's amazing to me about those numbers is that in 05, the year he should have won his second Cy Young, he had the best won-lost record (at this point) in this span. So this year, Mr. Johan Santana, with his 6-6 won-lost record, his 3.19 ERA, his 105 K's (don't know if that's before or after last evening's contest) might just watch his next Cy young go 'poof', all because of his record. The guy's but one loss away from matching the most losses in a seaon... which was 16-7 in 2005, the year he lost out to Bartolo Colon, who didn't deserve the award. I mean, there's no comparison: Colon won more games than Santana. But Santana had a better ERA, more strikeouts, same number of walks, more innings pitched, better opponent batting average and OBP, and so on and so on. He beat or tied Colon in every category... except wins. Which is really out of the pitcher's hands.

Johan has roughly twenty starts left to the season. If history is our guide, he'll need to win at least twelve of those to win the Cy--no starting pitcher in the American League has won a Cy Young with less than eighteen victories (not including the strike-shortened 1994 campaign). Ever.

Santana's going to have another marvelous season to be sure, but grabbing twelve wins out of the next twenty starts is not something he controls entirely. The Twins bats have as much to do with his next Cy. Can they help him win his third?

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