For some reason, there is a group of people--we'll call them "crazy"--who believe that Johan Santana is not having a year worthy of another Cy Young and that there is "something wrong with him." Obviously, this is absurd, but clearly it has some power and enough people believe it, as it took Jim Leyland (and not the players' vote) to get Johan Santana on the All-Star roster. You heard that correctly. Somehow, all the opposing hitters that Santana has been mowing down for years now decided that he just wasn't himself this year and voted others, like Josh Beckett, ahead of him.
Sure Beckett is having a good year, but the only advantage he has (how surprising!) is that he has one more win with 11. Otherwise, Santana has a better WHIP (1.03 to 1.10), a better BAA (.215 to .234), more strikeouts (125 to 83), and the better ERA (2.75 to 3.38). In fact, with last night's win, Santana is now third in the AL in ERA, second in strikeouts (to Erik Bedard), tied for fourth in wins, is fourth in WHIP, and is fifth in innings pitched. Really, the only number that stands out as a negative for Santana is the 17 home runs he has allowed.
The point of this isn't too far fetched: Santana is poised for the best year of his career with his current numbers, as his pre-break numbers surpass last year's (2.95 ERA, 9-5 record) and are far above those of 2005 (3.98, 7-5) and 2004 (3.78, 7-6). Santana's competition is a lot stiffer this year, at least so far, as Dan Haren, C.C. Sabbathia, John Lackey, and Justin Verlander are all having worthy years and Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie would be if not for the Orioles awful bullpen that accounts for his 4-2 record.
Thankfully for Santana, not only are his other numbers (ERA, WHIP, etc.) picking up, but his run support has been much better as of late. In the last four games Santana has started, the Twins have scored a total of 33 runs. In yesterday's game, the Twins managed to get offense out of the recently struggling Jason Kubel and the unlikely Luis Rodriguez as well as from Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau. Eight hits isn't terribly impressive, but getting five extra-base hits is a huge improvement for a Twins team that normally struggles to hit anything but singles most of the time.
With ample run support the rest of the way and his usual second-half magic, Santana should be set to compete for his third Cy Young award. The real question for the Twins is whether or not the team, which currently sits at a 43-40 record that leaves them 7 1/2 games behind the Indians in the AK Central and 5 1/2 games behind Detroit for the Wild Card, can make another second half push. With Kevin Slowey on the mound this afternoon taking on the so-far disastrous import Kei Igawa and the White Sox on the docket for this weekend, the Twins have the chance to put themselves in a good position by the All-Star break.