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Entries in Sergio Santos (3)


Santos Returns to Toronto

Four years ago, Sergio Santos was flailing to the tune of a .183 average for the Toronto Blue Jays' then-Triple-A Affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. The 6-foot-2, 230 pound Santos, a former first-round pick of the Diamondbacks, was too slow for shortstop and clearly wasn't going to hit his way to the majors. His big league window appeared closed.

Yesterday, Santos returned to the Jays -- to close. The converted infielder, who has established himself as one of the game's great strikeout artists out of the 'pen, was traded from the White Sox to Toronto for another infield convert, Nestor Molina.

For Chicago, the Santos trade may signify the beginning of a painful rebuilding process that could also put the likes of Carlos Quentin, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Alexei Ramirez on the market (no one's touching Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy or Alex Rios). A fastball/splitter righty with sublime control (he had a 148-to-16 K-to-BB ratio in 130.1 innings between High-A and AA), Molina was recently graded as a B+ prospect by John Sickels. The soon-to-be 23-year-old doesn't have a great breaking ball, but he could be a nice mid-rotation starter. It's a start.

On the other side, credit Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and company for landing an elite reliever without paying the Papelbon premium in free agency -- Santos is signed through 2014 for a total of $8.25 million, and he has team options for the three seasons after that for a combined $22.75 million.  While Santos' control isn't great (4.3 BB/9 over the past two years), his power slider might be the nastiest pitch in the sport.

Santos has thrown the mid-to-high-80s breaker slightly less than a quarter of the time over the past two seasons. Hitters have whiffed at the pitch 60 percent of the time they have swung, trailing just the Angels' Jordan Walden and Atlanta's Jonny Venters in slider miss percentage. Santos buries the pitch out of the zone to his glove side...

Santos' slider location, 2010-2011

...And hitters don't have a prayer against those below-the-knees pitches. Check out opponents' contact rate by pitch location vs. Santos' slider, versus the league average:

Opponent contact rate by pitch location vs. Santos' slider, 2010-2011

Average contact rate by pitch location vs. sliders, 2010-2011

Santos' slider makes MLB athletes with Jedi-like coordination look like, well, Santos did as a hitter. Opponents have batted .101 against the pitch, with a .131 OBP and a .187 slugging percentage. By the way, pitchers hit a collective .141/.175/.182 this past year.

The 28-year-old loves to go to the slider with two strikes, throwing it half the time in such situations, and he has racked up 99 of his 148 Ks with the pitch. Santos couldn't hit the slider. Luckily for him, no one can hit his, either.


Jonny Venters' Dominant Slider

Jonny Venters has thrown 191 sliders this season, and opposing hitters have swung at 103 of those sliders.  Yet, of those 103 swings, they have hit nothing but air 70.9% of the time.  That leads all major league pitchers throwing sliders.  Sergei Santos of the Chicago White Sox comes in second with 64.9%, and there are only five other pitchers who have produced a Miss% rate on sliders greater than 50% this season.

(Click image to enlarge)

You can see that he keeps the slider away from lefties, missing the strike zone the majority of the time, while keeping it on the bottom of the zone to righties.  Venters has gotten opposing hitters to swing at his sliders located out of the zone 51.5% of the time.  In fact, Lefties have chased 61% of sliders he's thrown out of the zone, which ranks 3rd best in the league behind Jaime Garcia and Joel Hanrahan.

Last season, Venters was getting hitters to swing and miss at 63.7% of his sliders and chase 41.5%.  While both are still excellent overall (his Miss% also led the league in 2010), his current slider has gone above and beyond.  Lefties are hitting just .115 against, while righties have yet to get a hit in 35 plate appearances decided on a slider.  In fact, in the 61 PA in which a Jonny Venters slider was the deciding pitch, 51 have been strike outs (47 swinging, 4 looking).  The fact that he can throw his slider effectively to both righties and lefties is a major reason he hasn't allowed an earned run since June 29th.


Put-Away Pitchers

Top 15 Pitchers with Two Strikes by K%

Chicago White Sox closer Sergio Santos has been deadly in two strike counts. With a 65.0% K-rate, he's the best put away pitcher so far in 2011. In 103 plate appearances with two strikes, Santos has yielded only 8 hits and 10 walks while striking out 67 batters.

While Kameron Loe's 41.5% K-rate in two strike counts ranks only 97th among qualified pitchers, his .102 weighted on base average is tops in all of baseball. He's given up just 8 base hits with two strikes, none for extra bases. One reason for the lack of opposing power has been his ability to keep the ball out of the air. With two strikes, Loe has given up all of 6 fly balls out of 57 balls put in play, compared to 41 grounders.