August 22, 2002
As I write this, I am watching the Twins/Royals game, which Jacque Jones started with his 9th leadoff homer of the year.
Jacque probably deserves his own blog entry at some point, just because of the way he frustrates me with his lack of plate discipline/inability to hit lefties and his ability to flat out crush right handers.
But right now, the thing that interests me most from this game is the starting pitcher for the good guys, Johan Santana.
I suspect that many of you are not very familiar with Mr. Santana, but with the way he has pitched this season, that might change very quickly.
The quick report:
He was born in March of 1979 (which makes him 23) in Venezuela.
He is a lefty.
And he was acquired by the Twins during the 1999 Rule V draft (he was originally signed, in 1995, by Houston).
As a Rule V pick, Santana had to spend the entire 2000 season with the Twins.
He pitched in 30 games in 2000, 25 as a long reliever/mop up man and 5 as a starter.
He didn't pitch very well (6.49 ERA in 86 IP), but of course, he was only 21 and was making the HUGE jump from A-ball to the Major Leagues.
Last season, Santana spent the majority of the year in the majors with the Twins, although he missed almost half the season with a left elbow injury.
When he pitched, he did okay, appearing in 15 games (including 4 starts) with a 4.74 ERA in 44 IP.
And this season?
Well, this season has been a whole different story for Santana.
Santana did not make the club out of spring training and was instead sent to AAA Edmonton.
While in Edmonton Santana was absolutely dominating:
49 Innings Pitched
75 Strike Outs
The Twins called him up and he has not disappointed.
His 2002 MLB Stats, prior to tonight:
77 Innings Pitched
101 Strike Outs
Looks pretty similar to his AAA stats actually.
Anyway, just to put those numbers in context...
Major League Leaders in Strike Outs per 9 innings:
Johan Santana 11.81
That is some pretty awesome company.
I obviously need to point out that Johan has only pitched 77 innings so far this year, but still...
That is pretty damn impressive.
Bill James, the boys over at BaseballProspectus and many other "stat heads" will tell you, and have shown, that a pitcher's strikeout rate is probably the most important thing in determining long term success.
(Just in case you were wondering, the guy I raved about a few days ago, Mark Prior, is averaging about 11.5 Ks/9 innings)
So, if Santana had pitched enough innings, he would be leading the league in strikeouts per 9 innings.
He would also be 5th in opponent batting average (.211) and 4th in opponents slugging % (.314).
Did I mention he is only 23?
Twins GM Terry Ryan took a lot of heat here (in Minnesota) for quite a few years in the mid-late 90s and maybe deservedly so, but what he has done with this team lately is pretty incredible.
They are winning with one of the lowest payrolls in the league, they have good, young players and a stacked farm system to help fill in the gaps if some players get too expensive.
It is VERY early in Santana's career, but it looks like he might be one of the better Rule V picks of all-time.
Off of the top of my head, I can only think of George Bell and another Twin, Shane Mack, although I am sure there are a few good ones I am missing.
By the way, it looks like I semi-jinxed Santana.
In the time it took me to write this entry, he gave up 3 runs.
But, he still has 4 strikeouts through 4 innings and the offense has picked him up, scoring 4 themselves.
I am gonna stop writing now, as to stop any further jinxing from occuring....