|Player in the Spotlight: Johan Santana|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on October 06, 2004
Ht: 6-0, Wt: 205, DOB: 3/13/79, Pos: LHSP, Team: Minnesota Twins
*stats current as of 9/29/04
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce your American League Cy Young Award winner. I’ll give you a hint as to his identity: he last pitched on September 29th in Yankee Stadium, but he wasn’t wearing pinstripes. The person I’m talking about is Johan Santana, the ace of the Minnesota Twins pitching staff. And he’s the Cy Young winner for this year, no doubt about it.
The lefty signed by Andres Reiner was previously in the Houston Astros farm system, but then was traded to the Marlins. The Twins drafted him in the Rule V pick from the Marlins and allowed him to take his lumps in the 2000 and 2001 seasons, but knew he would be something special.
Santana throws a mid-90s fastball, hard breaking slider, curveball, and two different types of changeups. The key to Santana’s success are his two changeups, thrown with two different grips to provide two different types of break. The major thing against Santana – and this is practically a non factor – is that he is not that adept at fielding his position. His pickoff throw to first makes it very difficult to steal off him, if runners ever get on base.
Whenever Santana approaches the mound, he has bulldog intensity. His manager Ron Gardenhire on Santana’s recent start in Baltimore: “He was so fired up. You could see in his eyes he was totally locked in, like it was the last game of the World Series.” The skipper goes on to say that Santana struck out three guys on with “the best changeups I’ve ever seen.” For someone who’s been in the game that long, that is quite a high compliment.
Having one of those years with pure “stupid” numbers (20 wins, 228 IP, 2.61 ERA), the twenty-five year old lefty is just plain dominating. There is no other word to describe his mastery of the opposing teams. The southpaw leads the American League in ERA (2.61), strikeouts (265), and opponents’ batting average. He doesn’t just lead these categories, he owns them. Curt Schilling, over .6 runs above him, is second in the race for ERA title. Forty-three strikeouts behind Santana is Pedro Martinez and sixty-two behind Santana is Schilling. The Venezuelan lefty leads the batting average against by over 30 points. The only category where our protagonist doesn’t lead is wins, where Curt Schilling has 21, while Santana has only 20. In this year Santana has won two consecutive AL Pitcher of the Month awards, and so far in September has given up only two earned runs, making him highly probable for a third.
But sometimes voters go for win total and throw out the other categories.
“I would hope that wouldn’t be important because of what this young man does,” Gardenhire said. “I know people look at number of wins. But this kid has done so much. If you look at the numbers and what this guy has done, it would be tough for me to say he hasn’t been the best pitcher.”
And he has, just take a look at the numbers.