Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cy Won?

After putting up perhaps his most dominating performance of the season against the Devil Rays yesterday, Johan Santana just might have locked down his second Cy Young award. In every possible way, Johan has been the best in the league and he has, when the Twins have needed it most, stepped up and led this team.

If the Twins go to the playoffs, don't just thank Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Johan Santana has done as much if not more to keep this team in the race. (I realize looking at win shares that this is not necessarily true, but if you count in his defense and his ability to lead by example and in the clubhouse, it's not so absurd. Neither Justin or Joe are quite the outspoken leader Johan is.) In this sense, it's quite conceivable that Johan could be a MVP candidate over our M and M boys.

The main statistical support for this comes from the fact that the Twins are 25-5 (.833 winning percentage) in games in which Johan starts. The last time a team won like that behind a starter, it was a .900 winning percentage (.900) behind Randy Johnson for Seattle in 1995. For comparison's sake, Johnson won the Cy Young that year, going 18-2 in a strike-shortened season with a 2.48 ERA along with 294 strikeouts in 214 and 1/3 innings and only 159 hits allowed. That isn't bad company for Santana, considering Johnson is one of the best starting pitchers ever.

Johan now leads the major leagues wins (17), WHIP (0.99), strikeouts (219), ERA (2.84), and OPS (.615) and is second in BAA (.215). Keep in mind, that's MLB, not just the American League. In such a huge offensive year in the AL, Santana has put incredible numbers up while leading the Twins to victory after victory.

Another reason the Cy Young is his is that his closest competitor, Roy Halladay, has way too much ground to make up even though there is a decent chunk of the season remaining. Halladay pitched a fine game against Cleveland last night (7 IP, 9 Ks, one earned run allowed in a game the Blue Jays bullpen lost) to bring his ERA to 3.22 with a good win total at 16, but it's the other stats the he loses on. His WHIP (1.09) is good, but that's more a product of his impressively low walk total (32) than his dominance. He only has 126 Ks (not even in the top 20 in the AL) and has allowed a .249 BAA. Even if he wins one more game than Johan on the season, it likely won't be enough to sway voters away from Santana's staggering lead in most every other category.

I know what you might be thinking: Santana was considerably better than Bartolo Colon in almost every category last year, but that didn't stop voters from handing the award to Colon due to his extra wins. However, like in the 2004 Cy Young race against Curt Schilling, Santana's dominance has been so much greater that it will be hard for the voters to ignore just because of a one win differential.

As for last night's game? Other than Johan's eight inning, two hit, 12 K performance that baffled the Tampa Bay hitters, there was also some good hitting to get excited about.

With some help from a terrible Tampa Bay defense, the Twins scored eight runs to easily defeat the Rays. With a few hard hits from Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer, the Twins offense looked a lot more alive, which is good news considering Carlos Silva is on the mound tonight.

* One extra note: Part of the idea of this post was suggesting that Johan may be a legitimate MVP candidate over Morneau or Mauer. What is interesting is the last time a pitcher had such a good year in a huge offensive season, he was a big MVP candidate as well. That was Pedro in 1999 (and 2000, for that matter), but he didn't manage to win, as two writers even left him off the ballet because "they couldn't justify giving the award to a starting pitcher." Interestingly, one of those writers was apparently our own LaVelle Neal (who I've met briefly and is a pretty nice and interesting guy) along with the New York Post's George King, according to Rob Neyer. I wonder how much of a chance Santana really has or if he'll make much of a mark on the ballots even.

11 comments:

Neil said...

Nice.
Admittedly I didn't see Johan pitch last night, but it would be tough to be more dominant than his start against Boston. He had 13 Ks in that one and, if I recall correctly, 12 of them were swinging. The changeup was out of this world that night.
How awesome is it to quibble over which insanely dominant start has been his best?

Nick M. said...

There were just so many swings and misses last night. That's the key. Plus, he only gave up two hits, both to Dmitri Young, who has very little patience.

I swear ever time he threw a pitch, someone either fouled it off or missed it. There weren't really any line drives off Johan. Remember, in the game against Boston, he gave up a solo homer to Jason Varitek. For that reason alone, last night's start was more dominating.

My point, however, was to say that after such a dominant start, he should have the Cy Young locked up.

Neil said...

Like I said, I didn't see the game last night, but a) the Boston start also involved lots of swings and misses and b) it was against Boston. Oh, and c), the Varitek HR was a linedrive and could have just as easily been a double off the wall (in fact, would have been in a number of parks).
But, again, it's kind of a silly point to debate - I think we can probably just agree that he's awesome, and picking a favorite start is liking picking a favorite child.

Peter said...

To quibble about Silva's worst start might be interesting too. Of course when you need only one inning of the bullpen in a blow out you throw in Guerrier so he can't pitch the next three innings the very next game when you have to take Silva out after 3 IP. The 5 HR allowed come to mind (8/22) and 9 ER in 2.2 IP (4/29). Or the loss against Buerle who gave up 7 runs in the 1st (5/14). Only 5 QS out of 25 in 2006. I Am Very Sorry, this blog today is about CY'tana, not about Carloss Silva. Me myself very much liked Santana's 8 IP/0 ER/9 K's win against the Indians (8/15). Santana previously had some mediocre starts and the Twins had lost 3 of 4 against the Blue Jays. Not his best but at that time a very encouraging one.

Nick M. said...

Silva's worse? Clearly it was that start in May. It wasn't just awful; it was historically bad. No starter had given up seven runs in the first inning and won the game still in over a hundred years. (Buerhle did) What Silva did was kill momentum early on in May after the Twins had taken it to the White Sox in the first two games of a four-game home series. As you can see, I'm still bitter about it.

Nick N. said...

Plus, he only gave up two hits, both to Dmitri Young, who has very little patience.

You mean Delmon.

hunterfan said...

Johan earns his money and then some. It's nice to see Pohlad finally get something out of a larger salary. Maybe he won't be so shy in the future. I know Torii isn't the most overpaid(and in no way in the league Joe Mays was), but does he at least make the list of most overpaid?

Nick N. said...

I'm not sure Torii Hunter was all that overpaid during the past few seasons. $8 million for the best defensive center fielder in the league who delivers pretty good offense for his position (streaky as he may be) is not all that bad. Right now, Hunter is extremely overpaid. With his defense in decline, $10 million is simply too much for a guy who is an average offensive player with decent but not great power.

Meanwhile, Santana is a great bargain right now and he's going to cost considerably more once this contract is up. I hope the Twins can find away to lock him down.

JMK said...

Interesting to see Buster Olney is now advocating Santana as league MVP in his espn insider blog. His reasoning? The Twins are 25-5 when he starts (as you mentioned) and they are 56-54 when he doesn't. Maybe he should add you guys to his daily reading list!

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