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Let's talk about Castro....

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Santiago Starting To Turn Heads

As Nick wrote earlier in the week, Ervin Santana has been a legitimate threat in the Twins rotation. Santana is off to a tremendous start to the season and it's easy to see why the Twins decided to hang on to the veteran right-handed hurler.

What might be more of a surprise than Santana's start are the outings put together by Hector Santiago. For those who have forgotten, Santiago and Alan Busenitz were the two players acquired from the Angels last season in exchange for Alex Meyer and Ricky Nolasco.

Santiago, the former 30th round pick by the White Sox, could be on the cusp of a breakout season.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
Another All-Star First Half
Santiago has shown flashes of this type of pitching in the past. During the 2015 campaign, he got the season off to a great start and was named an American League All-Star. In the season's first half, he posted a 2.33 ERA with a 98 to 33 strikeout to walk ratio. In those 18 games, batters hit .213/.281/.356 against him.

Following his All-Star first half, things fell apart in the second half of the season. His ERA rose to 5.47 and his WHIP rose from 1.10 to 1.49. Batters OPS also rose by over 200 points. Minnesota is seeing glimpses of Santiago's all-star abilities but there's no evidence of him being able to sustain this level for an entire season.

What's Up, Pitches?
Opponents have struggled this season with making consistent contact against Santiago's sinker. For his career, batters have hit .217 against him when he throws this pitch. So far this season, opponents have been limited to a .135 average with two extra-base hits. His velocity has dipped a little with this pitch but he seems to be using it more effectively.

He has yet to surrender an extra-base hit with his secondary pitches but he throws these less than 40% of the time. When throwing his change-up, batters have been limited to a .200 average which is almost 60 points lower than his career mark. His cut fastball has yielded a .750 opponent's batting average, the highest of any pitch he throws.

The Jason Castro Factor
During the entire off-season, Twins fans heard rave reviews about Jason Castro and his ability to coax umpires into calling strikes. This might not have been more evident than on Sunday afternoon when "Castro had the best day of any backstop at getting his pitchers extra strikes."
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For seven innings on Sunday, Santiago was the beneficiary of Castro's catching abilities. Fangraphs showed multiple pitches from Santiago that ended up being called strikes. Castro is clearly factoring into the Twins early season pitching success.
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It's been a small sample size and there is plenty of season still ahead. Santiago needs to prove that he can sustain these numbers over the course of an entire season. He's shown flashes of this type of pitching in the past but the league will adjust. Can he make the types of changes necessary to sustain this success?

Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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81 Comments

I think at least part of Santiago's success can be attributed to his willingness to pitch up in the zone. Granted, I'm going by what I've watched this year but it seems he's not so locked into being down in the zone he forgets the strike zone consists of more than just the lower third.

    • Taildragger8791 and MN_ExPat like this
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Taildragger8791
Apr 18 2017 11:08 PM

I flat out admit I don't understand anything about Santiago. The dude just seems to get the job done despite logic and stats saying it doesn't make any sense. Maybe he's the inverse Ricky Nolasco that out-pitches his FIP by a run instead of lagging it by a run.

 

My stance is to be happy and enjoy it for as long as it lasts. No need as a fan to pick it apart with questions while it's working.

    • Blake, Mike Sixel, Oldgoat_MN and 6 others like this
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HitInAPinch
Apr 19 2017 02:21 AM

"What's Up, Pitches?"  Nice.

 

I don't have stats to support this, but I'm guessing his lack of 2nd half success is due to the large number of pitches he seems to throw each game.

I love a pleasant surprise - but the cynic in me says - too early.  His trend has been a steady increase in ERA with a one season dip, so I am not ready to see him as a number 2 in the rotation.  http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/santihe01.shtml

    • frightwig likes this
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terrydactyls1947
Apr 19 2017 07:27 AM

 
My stance is to be happy and enjoy it for as long as it lasts. No need as a fan to pick it apart with questions while it's working.


I thought that was the sole purpose of the comment section?
    • Blake, Jerr, Sconnie and 2 others like this
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ashburyjohn
Apr 19 2017 08:01 AM

My stance is to be happy and enjoy it for as long as it lasts. No need as a fan to pick it apart with questions while it's working.

I thought that was the sole purpose of the comment section?

Attached Image: loss_for_words.gif

 

There's been a general uptick in questioning of one another's motives recently. I'd like to ask everyone to dial that aspect back, even if intended humorously.

    • Mike Sixel and d-mac like this
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howieramone2
Apr 19 2017 08:07 AM

Great trade by Rob Antony!

    • Mike Sixel and PseudoSABR like this
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Tom Froemming
Apr 19 2017 08:46 AM

Hector Santiago is super fun to analyze. His attack plan and batted ball profile defy conventional wisdom. Yet here he is, a former 30th-round pick with so-so stuff in his seventh season as a big league starter.

 

I suspected Castro would be particularly valuable for Hector, glad to see that's working out so far. It's really tough for lefties to get that outside strike called against right-handed batters. If Castro can continue to make that happen, I think we'll see Santiago take advantage. He's smart, that's how he's made it this far.

 

We're sure to see some starts where his command fails him and he gives up a ton of walks and homers, but it's pretty great to see a 1.47 ERA right now, especially since Nolasco leads the league in HRs allowed (7) and Meyer has a 4.80 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in Triple A. Atta boy Antony!

    • snepp, Oldgoat_MN, HitInAPinch and 2 others like this

 

Great trade by Rob Antony!

 

He had a really good deadline looking back. This and Nunez trade were solid, and the two other pieces he didn't move (Santana and Kintzler) have increased in value.

 

    • USAFChief, snepp, Oldgoat_MN and 5 others like this

Well, Nolasco had a nice 11 start run for the Angels last year too.  I wouldn't be so quick to pat the Twins on the back after 3 good starts from Santiago.

 

FWIW, 2 of those 3 starts have come against the White Sox and Royals, who rank 11th and 15th respectively out of 15 AL teams in runs per game, 13th and 15th in batting average, 12th and 14th in walk rate, etc.

    • frightwig, Winston Smith and rghrbek like this

 

Nolasco leads the league in HRs allowed (7)

He's had a rough start, but interestingly Nolasco has managed to limit the damage from those dingers about as well as could possibly be expected. 7 HR, but 5 of them have been solo shots and the other 2 have been 2-run shots.  I was expecting to see a pretty horrendous overall line for him, but he's managed to be run of the mill Nolasco bad.

    • Tom Froemming likes this
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howieramone2
Apr 19 2017 09:34 AM

 

Well, Nolasco had a nice 11 start run for the Angels last year too.  I wouldn't be so quick to pat the Twins on the back after 3 good starts from Santiago.

 

FWIW, 2 of those 3 starts have come against the White Sox and Royals, who rank 11th and 15th respectively out of 15 AL teams in runs per game, 13th and 15th in batting average, 12th and 14th in walk rate, etc.

Miss Nolasco do you? I was thinking about the money it freed up. Who said anything about 3 good starts? He's had a nice career and I figure will get 3 years and 25-30M in free agency.

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TheLeviathan
Apr 19 2017 09:35 AM

Bit of a small sample to declare those trade wins wouldn't ya say?

 

(And this is from someone that argued vociferously that the deal was a good one at the time)

 

It's not like we spent the Nolasco money this offseason either, so let's not go down that road....

 

Meyer has a 4.80 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in Triple A

Obviously Meyer is more likely to fail than succeed, etc. But his current line might be influenced a bit by the Pacific Coast League too.  His K and BB rates are good through 3 starts, but he's got a .429 BABIP.  And the two parks he's pitched in so far were recently ranked just behind Colorado Springs as the most hitter-friendly in that league:

 

https://www.milb.com...172/t-209979210

 

 

Of course, he did the high-BABIP thing back in early 2015 with Rochester too.  He's still a project.  It will be interesting to see how the next few months go for him, and to see how the Angels handle him.

 

    • ashburyjohn and Tom Froemming like this

 

Miss Nolasco do you? I was thinking about the money it freed up. Who said anything about 3 good starts? He's had a nice career and I figure will get 3 years and 25-30M in free agency.

With Santiago's arbitration salary, the trade was cash neutral.  The Twins paid all of Nolasco's remaining salary last year, and are paying $4 mil of Nolasco's salary this year.

 

EDIT: Actually the Twins did appear to save $1 mil -- the buyout on Nolasco's 2018 option.  At the time of the deal, arbitration estimates for Santiago were $8-9 million and I guess his poor finish helped ensure he came in at the lower number. Had he come in at $9 mil it would have offset Nolasco's buyout too.  In any case, it was effectively cash neutral.

    • KirbyDome89 likes this

His 90.0% LOB, 4.2 HR/FB, .222 BABIP along with 15.3% K% / 5.4 K/9 and 4.76 xFIP makes me think that it will be nice to enjoy the mirage while it lasts (or even better, finding a trade partner ASAP.)

    • frightwig and Sconnie like this

We'll see. He's got a 4.76 xFIP and according to xStats he's 10th out the 13 Twins pitchers in average exit velocity (Rogers, Hughes, and Breslow have higher exit velocities) with an expected BABIP of .311. Not to mention he's sitting at a career low K% so far this season.  

    • frightwig likes this

 

It's not like we spent the Nolasco money this offseason either, so let's not go down that road....

Actually we did spend it! On one year of Hector Santiago. :)

    • Thrylos, TheLeviathan and KirbyDome89 like this

This is merely an observation -- thecalled-strike graphic indicates three in-zone pitches were called balls and three out-of-zone pitches were called strikes.  Net zero.  The all-unhit-pitches graphic looks impressive, but includes swinging misses.  Maybe Castro's ability to get calls influences out-of-zone swings, but that's certainly not a given.  

 

Again --Castro's framing may be fantastic -- but I don't see how this single-day's data shows any positive effect, even about the day.  

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howieramone2
Apr 19 2017 09:55 AM

 

Bit of a small sample to declare those trade wins wouldn't ya say?

 

(And this is from someone that argued vociferously that the deal was a good one at the time)

 

It's not like we spent the Nolasco money this offseason either, so let's not go down that road....

Who says we have to spend it during the offseason? It was money earmarked to be spent in 2017 and we have plenty of 2017 left. 

 

His 90.0% LOB, 4.2 HR/FB, .222 BABIP along with 15.3% K% / 5.4 K/9 and 4.76 xFIP makes me think that it will be nice to enjoy the mirage while it lasts (or even better, finding a trade partner ASAP.)

But Thrylos, that's the point. He always outperforms his peripherals.

He had a good year going last year (10-4 for the Angels), faltered badly for like 4 games upon being traded, then closed out with like 5 of his last 7 starts being quality starts.

Do I think he will maintain a 1.47 ERA? Of course not.

 

He does everything wrong. He lives up in the zone. Very few successful pitchers do that.

He seldom goes 7 innings. That's annoying.

To me, he is just very interesting, and that makes him fun.

    • Blake, Danchat, Taildragger8791 and 2 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 19 2017 10:02 AM

 

His 90.0% LOB, 4.2 HR/FB, .222 BABIP along with 15.3% K% / 5.4 K/9 and 4.76 xFIP makes me think that it will be nice to enjoy the mirage while it lasts (or even better, finding a trade partner ASAP.)

Some of Santiago's peripherals are concerning but he's another situation - an inverse Nolasco - where FIP is failing to account for something in the makeup of the player.

 

Santiago's career FIP is one full run higher than his ERA in 733 innings across three different teams.

 

At some point, we need to conclude that FIP just plain wrong about some players.

    • Blake, stringer bell, snepp and 6 others like this
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Tom Froemming
Apr 19 2017 10:17 AM

 

This is merely an observation -- thecalled-strike graphic indicates three in-zone pitches were called balls and three out-of-zone pitches were called strikes.  Net zero.  The all-unhit-pitches graphic looks impressive, but includes swinging misses.  Maybe Castro's ability to get calls influences out-of-zone swings, but that's certainly not a given.  

 

Again --Castro's framing may be fantastic -- but I don't see how this single-day's data shows any positive effect, even about the day.  

We looking at the same graphic? I see one sure strike called a ball and like seven pitches out of the zone called strikes. The solid box is the actual strike zone, right? Or am in misinterpreting that?

 

Some of Santiago's peripherals are concerning but he's another situation - an inverse Nolasco - where FIP is failing to account for something in the makeup of the player.

 

Santiago's career FIP is one full run higher than his ERA in 733 innings across three different teams.

 

At some point, we need to conclude that FIP just plain wrong about some players.

I think Santiago could continue to out-perform his FIP.

 

But right now in 2017, he's out-performing it by almost two runs.  And it's also a career-low FIP by almost a run too.  (And in fairness to Thrylos, he was citing xFIP, and Santiago's 2017 HR rate is only 38% of his career rate, and only 30% of his 2016 rate.)

 

This isn't a FIP issue, it's a small sample / peripherals issue.

    • Jham likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 19 2017 10:19 AM

 

I think Santiago could continue to out-perform his FIP.

 

But right now in 2017, he's out-performing it by almost two runs.  And it's also a career-low FIP by almost a run too.  (And in fairness to Thrylos, he was citing xFIP, and Santiago's 2017 HR rate is only 38% of his career rate, and only 30% of his 2016 rate.)

 

This isn't a FIP issue, it's a small sample / peripherals issue.

Oh, sure, I didn't mean to conclude that Santiago is suddenly a #1 or even #2 pitcher, only that using FIP has never been an accurate measure of his value as a pitcher.

 

He'll probably settle somewhere near his career numbers: a 4-ish ERA and close to a 5-ish FIP, give or take half a run.

 

Or he could implode spectacularly. I don't have much faith in the guy.

 

At any rate, right now he looks a lot more like the guy the Twins traded for than the guy who pitched for the team in the second half of 2016.

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