<
>

Mets' Santana heading for surgeon's table

Second opinion confirms lousy news:

    Monday morning, it was reported that Johan Santana was awaiting a second opinion on his shoulder from Dr. James Andrews. That second opinion, it appears, confirmed the first one, and Monday afternoon we found out that Santana will have shoulder surgery on Tuesday. The surgery will end Santana's season, an otherwise successful year that saw Santana post a 2.98 ERA and strike out 144 batters over 199 innings.

That last bit about the strikeouts sounds like a good thing. But it wasn't, really.

In Santana's four brilliant seasons with the Twins, he struck out nearly 10 hitters per nine innings, and struck out nearly five times more hitters than he walked.

In Santana's first two seasons with the Mets, he struck out nearly eight hitters per nine innings; this year he struck out only 6.5 per nine innings. In his three Met seasons, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped from 4.52 (in his last Twin season) to 3.27 to 3.17 to 2.62 (this season).

Superficially, you might think that Santana's been almost as good with the Mets as he was with the Twins. After all, as a Met he's gone 40-25 with a 2.85 ERA.

Except there's a big difference between pitching for the Twins and pitching for the Mets. Santana's ERA+ with the Mets is 144; his ERA+ in those previous four seasons with the Twins was 155. As a Twin, Santana won two Cy Young Awards, also finishing third and fifth. As a Met, Santana has a third-place finish.

Obviously, he's been excellent as a Met. But not as excellent as what the Mets thought they were paying for. And while I wouldn't want to discount the wonders of modern surgical techniques, the drop in Santana's strikeout rates suggest that he simply isn't the same pitcher that he was, and probably never will be.

Which, as a baseball fan, I find disheartening.