September 26, 2006
Santana's final numbers:
GS W L IP SO BB HR OAVG
34 19 6 233.2 245 47 24 .220
Santana holds unbeatable leads in ERA and strikeouts, and is one win ahead of Chien-Ming Wang for the MLB lead. Wang makes his final start of the season tonight against Tampa Bay, meaning the best he can do is tie Santana. The list of pitchers whose company Santana will soon keep is impressive to say the least: Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove, Grover Alexander, Hal Newhouser, Dazzy Vance, and Dwight Gooden.
Take a look at how steady Santana has been since moving into the starting rotation full time in 2004:
YEAR GS W L ERA IP SO BB HR OAVG
2004 34 20 6 2.61 228.0 265 54 24 .192
2005 33 16 7 2.88 231.2 238 45 22 .210
2006 34 19 6 2.77 233.2 245 47 24 .220
Aside from some variance in win-loss record thanks to horrible run support last season, those three pitching lines are as similar as they are amazing. It's a shame that he'll have just two Cy Young Awards to show for that historic three-year run, but at least there's no chance of him being shafted for a second straight season. It's also a shame that Santana won't reach his second 20-win season, but having him start twice in the five-game ALDS makes up for it.
Given the fact that Santana is expected to skip his final start and the Tigers finish up their schedule by hosting the Royals in a three-game series, it's probably safe for the Twins to start booking hotel rooms in New York. All of which is why Randy Johnson's back spasms are suddenly an interesting topic. The Yankees are expected to go with Wang in Game 1 and Mike Mussina in Game 2, with the 43-year-old Johnson penciled in for Game 3.
Bonser was fantastic against the Royals Monday, tossing 6.2 innings of two-hit ball while giving up one run on a solo homer, and has now turned in nine straight starts without allowing more than three runs. He's a 24-year-old rookie who'll be on a huge stage for the first time at Yankee Stadium and is at a major disadvantage against the powerful New York lineup because of his homer-prone tendencies, but going with Bonser is the right decision.
The Game 3 starter will be determined by how well Brad Radke pitches against the Royals Thursday and how healthy his shoulder feels afterward. It'll be Radke's first appearance since August and will either be the last game he pitches in the big leagues or the first step toward rejoining the rotation for one last postseason run. I remain skeptical that Radke can shake off a significant injury and a lot of rust to be counted on in the ALDS, but a Santana-Bonser-Radke rotation is worth holding out hope for.
Joe Mauer .349
Robinson Cano .343
Derek Jeter .341
The season is quickly becoming very Yankees-centric, with Mauer battling New York's middle-infield duo for the batting title, Justin Morneau competing with Jeter as the two most popular mainstream media candidates for AL MVP, and the Twins facing a likely first-round trip to The Big Apple.
So when does Bremer finally decide to bring it up? When Hunter's foot is healthier and his problems defensively are in the rear-view mirror. That's always been Bremer's way of doing things, with another example being how he went out of his way to praise Juan Castro's play on a daily basis right up until the Twins cut him loose, at which point he completely changed his tune to how replacing Castro with Jason Bartlett provided a much-needed spark for the team's turnaround.
I make a lot of strong statements here, ranging from subjective observations and unpopular opinions to unlikely predictions and non-mainstream analysis. I'm certainly wrong my fair share of the time and get criticized sometimes even when I'm right, but you can always count on hearing what I think. Bremer has no ability to do that, parroting whatever the company line is until it changes and gladly ignoring the elephant in the room because it might not be a pleasant topic to discuss.
When balls were flying over Hunter's head and he was flailing around on the turf after futilely attempting to make the spectacular plays we've all come to expect, Bremer acted as if it was business as usual. When Castro was showing all the range of a potted plant and the infield was a sieve, Bremer excitedly acted like the Twins had Ozzie Smith at shortstop. Now that Hunter is playing well again and Bartlett is getting to everything in sight? Suddenly history has changed and the revised topics are on his mind.