Minnesota Twins ace starting pitcher Ervin Santana is raising eyebrows with his pitching invincibility one month into the season.
Ervin’s 0.66 ERA and perfect 5-0 record on the mound have kept Minnesota floating a couple wins above .500. Yet, one question still lingers in management’s minds. Are the Twins over-using their lone ace ensuring long-term success throughout the season?
Without question, Santana will be depended on heavily at the front-end of the rotation. There is reason to worry about the other starters not being able to pull their weight to support Ervin Santana’s brilliant pitching efforts.
Youngster Jose Berrios will be brought up from AAA Rochester to address the forth or fifth spot in the rotation. Incumbent starters Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, who have struggled at times to go deep into games, are depended on to pick up some wins. That leaves #2 man Hector Santiago as the only other bright spot in the rotation until further help arrives.
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A lot is expected of Ervin Santana to be the club’s bell cow that eats innings and gives his team a chance to win every outing. At his age, it’s hard to imagine he can sustain these Cy Young type numbers. Ervin can stick to his game plan and pitch to contact comfortably since behind him sits the best outfield defense in Major League Baseball. And it’s not even particularly close, folks.
The Art of Catching
Although it’s been well documented, the acquisition of former All-Star catcher Jason Castro has paid major dividends for the entire staff. The analytics stat heads love Castro’s ability to frame pitches around the strike zone.
Castro also stymies base runners at an alarming rate and keeps them honest at first. Per beyondtheboxscore.com, Castro recorded the third highest number of called strikes outside the strike zone (oStr) at 8.3% in 2016.
To put that into context, he makes fringe strike calls look like convincing strikes to the umpire. A methodical strike thrower like Santana can take advantage of his team’s improved defense to work deeper into ball games.
In addition to the defensive help behind Santana, he’s been a strikeout pitcher. He is also keeping the walks at an acceptable quantity. Santana’s WHIP is nearly half of the league average at 0.71 walks/hits per innings pitched. In other words, he’s been a pitching magician.
Twins brass would like to think Santana’s quality starts frequency will be sustainable throughout the rest of the 2017 campaign. One adjustment I see pitching coach Neil Allen making is cutting Ervin’s innings or keeping tabs on his pitch count a bit more.
In conclusion, it’s been a fantastic opening month for Ervin Santana. While a Cy Young type season is unlikely, let’s all enjoy a true professional dealing out there each and every outing. It’s a shame Ervin changed his name from Johan cause he’s looking more and more like the real Johan Santana with every outing.