Twins Daily Awards 2016: Pitcher Of The Year
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today SportsErvin Santana had something to prove during the 2016 season. This came a year after being suspended for 80 games for PED use, on the heels of a big off-season free agent deal. When he returned from suspension, he allowed four runs or more in six of his first ten games (6.05 ERA) including 11 home runs. He settled in from there, posting a 1.62 ERA and a 5-2 record over his last seven starts.
Santana was able to build off of this strong finish in 2015 as the 2016 season began. Through his first seven starts, he had an ERA under 3.15 and a 32 to 14 strikeout to walk ratio. Even with these strong numbers, the Twins compiled a 1-6 record (Santana was 1-2). Over his next five starts, he allowed five runs or more in all but one of those games. His season ERA topped out at 5.10 and he had a rough 1-7 record.
From June 19 through August 21 (11 starts), Santana saw his best stretch of the year and it's likely one of the main reasons he won this award. Across 75.1 innings pitched he limited opponents to 15 earned runs (1.79 ERA). Batters hit .202/.241/.285 against him. This stretch also included two complete games and one complete game shutout against Oakland.
"I haven't had many decisions in a year-and-a-half of letting a guy go out there to get a shutout," Twins manager Paul Molitor said about his late-inning decision to keep Santana rolling. "But, he was dominant."
Santana's dominance cooled down as the season wound to a close. In September, he averaged less than six innings per appearance while opponents got on base over 32% of the time against him. He struck out more than a batter an inning (36 SO in 34 IP) and posted a solid 2.65 ERA. However, there was only one start where he was given more than three runs of support and that was his final win of the year.
While Santana was a lone bright spot in a struggling rotation, there were some other bullpen arms that compiled solid numbers. Minnesota went into the season thinking a back-end trio of Glen Perkins, Trevor May and Kevin Jepsen would be the key to winning games. Perkins missed almost the entire season, May tried to play through an injury, and Jepsen pitched terribly. This allowed other players to claim a role.
Brandon Kintzler signed with the Twins in December from the Brewers organization. With the trio mentioned above, he likely was uncertain of his role in Minnesota. He wouldn't earn his first save until the beginning of June but he went on quite a stretch after taking over the job. Over his next 19 appearances, he allowed three earned runs (1.50 ERA) as opponents got on base less than 28% of the time. There were some rough appearances over the last month but he set career highs in saves and games finished.
Other bullpen arms like Ryan Pressly and Fernando Abad were offered opportunities to prove they belonged at the big league level. Pressly set a career high in SO/9 and tossed over 75 innings for only the second time in his career. Abad signed on a minor league deal before the season. He posted a 2.65 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP before being dealt to the Red Sox at the trade deadline for RHP Pat Light.
In a bad year that included plenty of poor pitching, Santana and part of the bullpen put together strong stretches. There was plenty of talk of trading Santana around this year's trade deadline. It will be interesting to see if the new regime keeps Santana around or uses him as a trade chip to build for the future.
In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily writers:
- Seth Stohs – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Ryan Pressly/Taylor Rogers
- Parker Hageman – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Fernando Abad
- Nick Nelson – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Ryan Pressly
- Jeremy Nygaard – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Ryan Pressly
- Cody Christie – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Fernando Abad
- Steve Lien – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Brandon Kintzler, 3.) Ryan Pressly
- Eric Pleiss – 1.) Ervin Santana, 2.) Ricky Nolasco, 3.) Buddy Boshers
Ervin Santana- 21
Brandon Kintzler- 12
Ryan Pressly- 3.5
Ricky Nolasco- 2
Fernando Abad- 2
Buddy Boshers- 1
Taylor Rogers- 0.5
Feel free to discuss. How would your ballot look?