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Entries in Ervin Santana (3)


Ervin Santana Isn't Worth What He Thinks He Is

The market for free-agent starter Ervin Santana has been a slow-moving one so far this winter, with only a few teams reportedly interested in signing the now 31-year-old right hander. While the Detroit Tigers expressed at least some interest in the veteran this week, a signing does not seem to be imminent at this juncture, and any intrigue brought forth by the Minnesota Twins has evidently dissolved.

Two main reasons behind the stagnant market include the fact that A.) whichever team that signs him will forfeit rights to its first-round draft pick next summer, as he was classified as a 'type A' free agent at the beginning of free agency, and B.) that the nine-year veteran's asking price has been ridiculously high, reportedly in the ballpark of $112 million over five years -- enough for a whopping $22.4 million average salary over his desired contract length.

Is Santana worth that amount of dough? I don't think so. And neither should you.

Ervin Santana vs. league-average marks in 2013

Though Santana's 2013 campaign was impressive in several respects, including matching his career mark with a 127 ERA+ and 1.14 WHIP that ranks second-best -- his career-best was 1.12 in 2008 -- his basic numbers last season were not particularly breathtaking, especially compared to the league average mark for right-handed starters. Though he relinquished on average nearly a half run less per nine innings (3.24) than the league mark (3.63), he was essentially on par with every league-average category included in the table above.

Santana's plea for $22.4 million per year is made even more futile when we look at his current arsenal.

Comparing Santana's fastball in-play rate vs. league average

Looking at Santana's fastball results juxtaposed to the league marks last season, we see the pitch was well below average in many respects. While he held opponents to a .272 batting average, which was essentially equal to the .269 league average, opponents put the offering in play at a league-high 50.7% clip (shown and compared to the league-average mark in the image above) and placed quality contact on it at a high frequency, posting a .286 well-hit average that was fifth-highest amoung qualified righty startes last season. While he managed to post a lower walk rate (7.1%) than the league mark (8.4%), his strikeout rate of 9.7% was nearly half the 16% average mark, ranking sixth-worst among his counterparts.

Since we've established that Santana's fastball is below-average almost across the board, we must turn to his slider to see how it stacks up against the league mark. Since this is clearly his No. 2 offering (he threw it 39% of the time and his changeup at just a 5.1% clip last season, and opponents hit .353/.389/.588 against it), this should give us a good idea of whether Santana is worth what he thinks he is.

If his slider was ridiculously dominant in most categories, it might make up for his lagging fastball and the money could theoretically be presented to him. If it was below or approximately at the league average mark, then we know for sure that his desired $22.4 million over five years probably won't (and shouldn't) come to fruition.

Comparing Santana's slider swing rate vs. league average

Comparing the swing rate of Santana's slider to last season's league mark, we see his offering generated at least a bit more swings on pitches out of the strike zone. And the statistical evidence backs this observation -- Santana's slider posted a 38% chase rate (fourth-best among qualified right-handed starters) opposed to the 33.0% league mark, and 38.4% miss rate (6.9% above the average mark). Consequently, this gave Santana's offering a 35.1% strikeout rate (5.3% higher than average), which contributed to the bulk of his punchouts last season. But in total, opponents offered at only 48.6% of Santana's sliders last season, and that was actually below the 49% league average.

While Santana's slider was above the league mark in most respects last season, it wasn't a dominant offering. Given that his fastball was so ineffective across the board, these findings show that Santana's arsenal is below average altogether, which should convince us all that he should under no circumstances receive $22.4 million on average with his new team over the next five seasons. It just wouldn't make much financial sense.


Fantasy Baseball: Free Agent Pickups

After every draft a fantasy team is not without its holes. A team could be missing speed, power and/or dealing with the injury bug. The most important factor when determining the viability of a potential free agent is playing time or the potential playing time. 

Below the Speculative Options section provides three players who do not play full time, but are worth stashing on your bench because their value is the lowest it’s going to be all season and most importantly, could be extremely productive if they played every day. The Mixed League Options section provides two players who are available in 30% of NFBC leagues and should be owned in all leagues.

Speculative Options

Darin Mastroianni, OF, Twins: With Aaron Hicks looking lost at the plate it could only be a matter of time before the Twins send him to the minors. If that were to happen the door would open for speedster Darin Mastroianni to take over center field and leadoff duties. In the preseason I wrote Mastroianni could be a great source for cheap speed. In only 77 Major League games last year he was 21 for 24 in stolen base attempts. Like a lot speed-only players, his fantasy upside is strictly with his legs because he won’t hit for any power or for a high average.

Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals: So far this season first baseman Matt Adams has a slash line of .643/.667/1.214 with two home runs in 15 plate appearances. Obviously this will not continue the rest of the year, but the offensive potential is legitimate. Last year in Triple-A he had slugging percentage .624 with 18 home runs in only 67 games. He’s currently blocked from a full time role but if there’s an injury to the Cardinals outfield or to Allen Craig, Adams will become the everyday first baseman and Allen Craig will play in the outfield. If Adams were able to get 500 plate appearances he could be a top 20 first baseman.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, Athletics: With Scott Sizemore out for the year with a torn ACL and Hiroyuki Nakajima on the DL, Jemile Weeks could once again be the starting second baseman for the Athletics. Like Mastroianni his biggest fantasy asset is on the base paths. Last year Weeks looked lost both at the plate and in the field resulting in a -0.5 WAR (wins above replacement). A year and half ago he was deemed untouchable by the A’s front office. Now he’s back playing for the Sacramento Rivercats, their Triple-A affiliate. Eric Sogard is currently getting the majority of playing time at second base, but he’s an organizational player who will likely be on the bench until a better option is available. Is Weeks that option? He certainly has the best tools in the organization, as evidenced by his 2011 slash line of .303/.340/.421,  but it’s yet to be seen if he can actualize those tools.

Mixed League Options

Lucas Duda, OF, Mets: To begin the year, post-hype sleeper Lucas Duda is batting .308 with 3 home runs. Duda isn’t an exceptional player, but he has the raw power to hit 20-25 home runs with a batting average that won’t hurt your fantasy team. The Mets outfield is bad and he’s the best option they have, which means he’s assured playing time and will likely bat near the middle of the order.

Ervin Santana, SP, Royals: After his first start I was extremely skeptical about his fantasy viability. In his first start his fastball velocity was extremely low, only averaging 90 mph and maxing out at 91.7 mph. But during his last start the fastball averaged 93 mph and topped out at 96 mph. Not only did his velocity increase, he had great command of the strike zone with his secondary pitches. Compare his pitch locations  in the first start versus the second start (below). This is a great time to buy low as he could be ready to return to his pre-2012 level of performance. 


Ervin Santana's No-No

The Angels' Ervin Santana no-hit the Indians on Wednesday afternoon -- but Cleveland still led the game until the fifth frame. A first inning fielding error by Erick Aybar later turned into a run when Santana uncorked a wild pitch with Ezequiel Carrera on third base, but Santana pulled off the no-no and earned the Angels a 3-1 win by allowing just one other base runner the rest of the game. Santana whiffed 10 batters and walked one (Lonnie Chisenhall in the eighth inning), joining Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander in 2011's no-no club. It was the Angels' first complete-game no-hitter since Mike Witt threw a perfect game against Texas on September 30, 1984.

A fastball/slider pitcher who features just a smattering of changeups, Santana threw 68 heaters, 34 breaking balls and three changes against Cleveland. His velocity was higher than usual, as Santana averaged 93.3 MPH with his heat (92.6 MPH overall in 2011) and 82.7 MPH with his slider (81.9 overall in 2011).

While Santana is typically a fly ball-slanted pitcher, he recorded 12 ground ball outs compared to five fly outs on Wednesday. He challenged Cleveland's lefty-laden lineup (seven swung from the left side) with fastballs on the inner half, and buried his slider at the knees:


Frequency of Santana's fastball location vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011


Frequency of Santana's slider location vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011

Santana got five Ks apiece with his fastball and slider, and seven of his whiffs were of the swinging variety:

Pitch location and release velocity of Santana's strikeouts vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011

According to Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, Santana is the first pitcher to throw a nine inning no-hitter while surrendering a run since Houston's Darryl Kile did it versus the Mets on September 8, 1993, at the Astrodome.