April 16, 2007

Notes From the Weekend (Condensed Version)

Note: Some real-life stuff has me short on time, so unfortunately this write-up of the Twins' weekend series against the Devil Rays doesn't contain anything from Sunday's game and is a little short on material, period. I'll try to make up for it tomorrow, but until then I figured something was better than nothing.

  • Coming into Friday's matchup with the Devil Rays, Johan Santana hadn't lost a regular-season game at the Metrodome since August 1, 2005. During that 20-month stretch, Santana was 17-0 at home and the Twins were 24-0 when he took the mound. Toss in the team's 10-game home winning streak against Tampa Bay and the Devil Rays were seemingly the least likely opponent to break his historic streak.

    Instead, Scott Kazmir shut the Twins' lineup down and the defense behind Santana let him down, ending his amazing run with a 4-2 defeat. Despite the loss, Santana again bucked his career-long trend by pitching well in April, racking up 10 strikeouts over seven innings. He's 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA, 25-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .194 opponent's batting average in 20 innings. Those numbers fit perfectly with Santana's career totals, but they stick out compared to what he's done in April.

    Through three starts in his first Cy Young-winning season, 2004, Santana was 0-0 with a 6.46 ERA and 10-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15.1 innings. Through three starts in his second Cy Young-winning season, 2006, Santana was 0-2 with a 5.71 ERA and 12-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17.1 innings. For his entire career, Santana was 6-5 with a 4.42 ERA in 132.1 April innings coming into this year. Home loss or not, to see Santana pitching this well so early is unique.

  • Following the same strategy employed earlier this season by Sam Perlozzo of the Orioles and Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox, manager Joe Maddon stuck three left-handed hitters in the Devil Rays' lineup against Santana. Maddon even laid out his plan to reporters prior to the game, quoting the same "backwards" splits that I've discussed here, which show that show Santana's been significantly better against righties than lefties during his career.

    Carl Crawford, Akinori Iwamura, and Carlos Pena didn't have much success against Santana, going 1-for-8 with a walk and three strikeouts, although it was Crawford's sixth-inning single that Josh Rabe turned into an inside-the-park homer. Santana has held lefties to a .179 batting average thus far, but has allowed a .710 OPS against them, compared to a .534 OPS against righties. Of course, it's so early that Rabe's misplay alone raised Santana's OPS allowed against lefties over 100 points.

  • Once upon a time--after he hit just .208 in his first 255 at-bats against left-handed pitchers and was beaned by lefty Ron Villone--there were concerns about whether Justin Morneau would ever learn to hit southpaws. Suffice it to say that question has been answered. After launching a mammoth homer off Kazmir Friday, Morneau is hitting .316 with a .789 slugging percentage against lefties, which follows a .315/.345/.559 line against southpaws last season.
  • After the Yankees knocked him around for eight runs in his Twins debut last week, I wrote that Sidney Ponson "pitched reasonably well" despite "being squeezed by the home-plate umpire," and suggested that "with a little help from the defense ... Ponson could have ... turned in five or six decent innings." Quite a few readers understandably scoffed at that notion, but that's exactly what happened against the Devil Rays Saturday night.

    Ponson pitched much like he did against the Yankees, yet turned in a start that fits perfectly in the "five or six decent innings" category. He allowed two runs over 5.1 innings, although to be fair it took some help from both the defense and the bullpen for him escape without further damage. Ponson also benefited from a much more liberal strike zone, which helped limit the potential for trouble. His 8.18 ERA remains ugly, but Ponson's actual pitching has been somewhat encouraging.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    No Comments

    No comments yet.

    Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.