A preview of the 2008 Mets, presented in the expected batting order, followed by pitching rotation, followed by impact bullpen/bench players. Today we focus on starting pitcher Johan Santana.
2007: 15-13, 3.33 ERA, 235 K's, 52 walks, 219 IP
"I can breathe. It's like a big glass of cold water when you're thirsty. That's how bad we wanted Johan. I'm glad he's on our side. He's somebody who, now, everybody can rely on. Actually, he's somebody I'll love to be around. He's a great person. I'm really proud to have him here. I can't wait to give him a big hug and say, 'Hey, we're together now.' One from the left side, the other from the right side."
Pedro Martinez*, like many Mets fans, is very excited about the Mets' acquisition of Johan Santana, speaking the above words almost immediately upon his arrival in Port St. Lucie.
Johan Santana makes the Mets pitching staff deeper, allowing everyone else to move down a slot, and instead of pitching ahead of where they belong in the rotation, the Mets pitchers are now among the best in the league where they are slotted. (In other words, John Maine is not a number two starter...but he's better than most teams' number threes. Same with Pedro Martinez* at number two, and Oliver Perez at four. Even El Duque at five.)
Santana also gives the Mets a threat - someone who could very well go out and win every start he makes. He won't, though. As much as I love this acquisition, this is going to be a tough year for Santana. He'll pitch great...but he won't get the wins to show for it. He will leave a lot of games tied 0-0 or 1-1 in the sixth or seventh innings...and the Mets might win those games, but they'll have trouble getting on the board early against the Cole Hamels, John Smoltz, Roy Oswalt, etc. of the National League. That's my prediction for Santana - his strikeout numbers and ERA will be out of this world, but he'll suffer in the wins department.
I'm looking at Johan Santana's numbers, and I didn't realize that he was a reliever for the first three and a half years of his career. But that just helps prove my point further. The point I want to make is that the Mets could be getting quite possibly the best pitcher at age 29 in history. Here's why - the Twins take care of their pitchers. They probably eased Santana into his role as a starter - that's why he was a reliever so early on (speculation here - I really don't know this as a fact). His innings increased each year until they dipped last year (last year was a bad season, statistically and relatively speaking, for Santana). So his arm is probably in good shape entering this six-year deal.
And here's my big point - some people are pointing to a 17-strikeout performance by Santana last year as a negative, because he left the game after 8 innings and didn't try for 20 K's. I ask these people - how many times does someone go out there, looking for a personal record, and end up blowing a game for their team because they were looking for individual gain? And how many times do we rip that person? I think it's a great thing that Santana didn't go out there for the ninth, because he had already thrown 112 pitches. If he goes out there and hurts his arm in the ninth, or loses the game, he gets bashed. He knew he was handing the game over to his closer, and was willing to set personal glory aside in order for the team to pick up a 'W'.
Sounds to me like Johan Santana has sound judgment about his body, is a good teammate, and bottom line - he wants to win. Doesn't seem like there's anything wrong with that to me.
NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: Johan Santana is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated (thanks to the Southern Bureau, a loyal SI subscriber, for the heads-up). Hopefully there will be no SI jinx. The article was decent - I read it online, though SI doesn't make it easy to find their magazine articles on their website. The article is about how Santana helped shift the mentality of everyone in the Mets organization. Nothing really new in there, except that along with landing the best pitcher in the game, the fact that he acquired Santana also landed Omar Minaya a new pair of expensive shoes in a bet he made with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon.