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Why The Entire Minnesota Twins Season May Come Down To Ervin Santana's Slider

So here we are, mere hours away from the first-pitch of a loser go home match-up at Yankee Stadium.

No one can script what will happen in a one-game playoff – Nick Blackburn throwing 6.1 innings of one-run ball? Sure. Bobby Keppel and Alexi Casilla playing hero in extra innings? Why not. – the Twins will undoubtedly have a plan of attack in trying to stymie one of the most potent lineups in the smallest of slowpitch softball fields.

Tonight’s game may come down to one critical factor: How well Ervin Santana can execute his slider.
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY
At 21.6 runs above average, Ervin Santana’s slider has been his best pitch on the season. Only Max Scherzer (30.0) and Jhoulys Chacin (22.4) derived more value out of the pitch on the year. It’s a stellar pitch and quite possibly his best weapon.

Attached Image: trumedia_baseball_grid (2).png


But here’s why it is going to used more tonight.

In his most recent start against the Yankees on September 1st, Ervin Santana threw 70.8% sliders against the Yankees right-handers. Over the entire year, the next highest slider usage vs righties was 58% against Cleveland in his last start of the year (perhaps honing his craft for the one-game playoff). Most of Santana’s games that rate fell around the 50% mark (50% fastballs/50% sliders). It is clear that with the Yankees in New York, Santana throttled down on the pitch.

This is big because if there is one pitch that the Yankees’ right-handed contingency has had trouble against it is sliders from right-handed pitchers. Perhaps no one more so than Aaron Judge. The Bronx superman has very few holes but sliders from righties gives him fits. He doesn't expand the strike zone much but he will swing through sliders on the outer-half. In the three plate appearances against each other this year, Santana threw 10 sliders on 14 total pitches. In their first match-up, Santana threw two straight fastballs, got a strike with a slider then, behind Judge 2-1 in the first inning, he tried to sneak a fastball past the hulking Yank to unfavorable results. Over their next two match-ups, Santana threw sliders nine of the next 10 pitches – striking him out once and inducing a long fly to Byron Buxton.

Attached Image: trumedia_baseball_grid (1).png


This just goes to show how little room for error there is with Judge.

Gary Sanchez, meanwhile, is a little more adept at getting to the slider -- he's hitting .283 vs sliders from righties. The biggest soft spot in his swing vs sliders is burying the pitch down and away outside of the strike zone. He will chase but Santana has to avoid throwing it in the strike zone, even down-and-away. Santana threw Sanchez sliders on 8 of the 12 pitches in their three match-ups this year.

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Starlin Castro has shown the ability to make contact on sliders, particularly those thrown down-and-away, and find some seams on the ground. The good news is that they are mostly singles on the ground, so a shift with Polanco to his right and Dozier covering the middle of the infield could keep Castro from doing damage. The danger comes from hanging Castro a slider inside where he has shown he is very capable for turning and elevating those pitches.

Attached Image: trumedia_baseball_grid (4).png


Santana has allowed seven home runs on his slider to righties this year, the most since his final season in Los Angeles (where he posted a 5.16 ERA). Unlike that season in LA, Santana has learned to throw it away from contact, locating the slider in non-competitive locations (areas that hitters can't touch it) and getting less contact.

As you watch tonight, look for Ervin Santana to use his slider liberally to the right-handed bats.

  • TwinsTakes-RD, rukavina, h2oface and 4 others like this

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27 Comments

I thought the Twins infield didn't shift when Santana pitched? 

 

Maybe I'm wrong but I swore I heard that listening to the radio a week ago.

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Parker Hageman
Oct 03 2017 09:40 AM

 

I thought the Twins infield didn't shift when Santana pitched? 

 

Maybe I'm wrong but I swore I heard that listening to the radio a week ago.

 

They rarely do: 84 plate appearances they have shifted. 

 

I would believe they would be encouraged into doing so for Castro (if they plan to attack with the slider).

    • drock2190 and DelusionalTwinsFan like this

Apart from Judge and Sanchez, the Yankees lineup is fairly banal. Santana just needs to do what he does best, and we all know he can do that when he wants to.  

 

This game will come down to whether or not the Twins hitters can hit and if the bullpen can perform. No worries about Santana. The worry is 1) will this team hit the ball well, and 2) will the bullpen shut down the team if Santana can't go the distance. 

 

There's talk about "Striking against the Yankees the starter early" being the key for the Twins. That's poppycock. If this becomes a battle of the bullpens, the Twins lose. Every member of the Yankees pen is better than anyone in the Twins pen. The best chance for a Twins victory is a low scoring affair with both starters going deep in the game.

I hope they have Berrios and Hildenberger ready to go on a moment's notice. One of those two guys may need to put out a fire. 

 

I wonder if Molitor is going to use Sano tonight. I wouldn't; he was flailing too much, and when he did make contact, clearly he didn't want to run faster than a jog on his hurting leg. 

I agree that it will come down to whether the Twins hit and how well the bullpen can perform. But there is no advantage to a low scoring game from the Twins. The bullpen needs as much cushion as possible. Hopefully, only the Yankees have trouble scoring early. The Twins need to score 5 plus runs by the 5th.

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Old Twins Cap
Oct 03 2017 11:00 AM

Not mentioned, but the FB from Santana is key to getting results on the slider.

 

If he can spot the fastball in and out, up and down, now the Yankees have to think:is this pitch coming at me a FB or a slider?

 

That's what makes the slider credible.Otherwise, you just wait a pitcher like Santana out, knowing everything is going to slide one way.

 

And he does have a decent FB, when he controls it.

    • USAFChief, dbminn and DelusionalTwinsFan like this

Go get em Erv...you have all of the baseball world minus Yankee fans in your corner!!!

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Parker Hageman
Oct 03 2017 11:26 AM

 

Not mentioned, but the FB from Santana is key to getting results on the slider.

 

If he can spot the fastball in and out, up and down, now the Yankees have to think:is this pitch coming at me a FB or a slider?

 

That's what makes the slider credible.Otherwise, you just wait a pitcher like Santana out, knowing everything is going to slide one way.

 

And he does have a decent FB, when he controls it.

 

Yes and no. 

 

To certain hitters, yes. To other hitters, like Judge & Sanchez, you show them a fastball out of the zone and continue to pepper them with sliders. Neither have proven the ability to restrain themselves. 

There's talk about "Striking against the Yankees the starter early" being the key for the Twins. That's poppycock. If this becomes a battle of the bullpens, the Twins lose. Every member of the Yankees pen is better than anyone in the Twins pen. The best chance for a Twins victory is a low scoring affair with both starters going deep in the game.


I interpreted the "strike early" as build a decent lead. The best chance to win is to do that and then have Santana shut them down. A low-scoring affair can quickly turn into a battle of the bullpens, but if the Twins are up 6-0, I don't care who pitches for the Yankees.
    • h2oface likes this

 

I wonder if Molitor is going to use Sano tonight. 

 

No need to wonder..... not on the roster. But I would have. Kirk Gibson didn't have to worry about how fast he ran........ and that is how you use him, if needed..... or.... would have used him.

 

Well Erv didn't even have a slider tonight so I guess a mute point.
    • Dantes929 likes this

 

Well Erv didn't even have a slider tonight so I guess a mute point.

or a moot point...

    • Dantes929, Sconnie and caninatl04 like this
Most of us knew the Twins had no chance against the Yankees.
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yarnivek1972
Oct 03 2017 09:07 PM

Well Erv didn't even have a slider tonight so I guess a mute point.


Actually, I think that is exactly the point. If he didn’t have a good one, the Twins had no chance.
    • Sconnie and caninatl04 like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Oct 03 2017 09:53 PM
Erv threw that low and away slider to Judge in the first inning, unfortunately Judge dumped it into center for a single.
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bluechipper
Oct 03 2017 09:55 PM

A slider to Didi would have been nice.

The ump had a tight zone for both sides. So, its a game to use A LOT of pitchers in a correct way. One team id. The other team didn't.

I realize that when you're batting, the strategy is usually to "take what the pitcher gives you" ... but as I said before the game, once the Yankees bullpen gets involved there is no further hope of scoring significant runs.

 

When the Twins realized Severino had nothing in the tank, they should have held that close to their chests and chipped at him slowly for a few innings with a grand finale outburst the 3rd time through the lineup. Yes, I realize this type of sneakiness is alien in baseball, at least to non-championship teams.

 

Few of us are surprised the Twins did not win, so there are no tears. Next year!

 

Also, it was nice to see a fairly called game by the umps this time around. The last time they did this was the worst called set of games I have ever seen as a baseball fan. Sure it was tilted to the Yanks, but they were getting atrocious calls as well.

Actually, I think that is exactly the point. If he didn’t have a good one, the Twins had no chance.

Thought the sarcasm was obvious there.
    • Sconnie likes this

Well the slider was non-existent and now so is the Twins 2017 season.You could tell Erv didn't have his stuff in the first at bat.Erv actually threw a strike three to Didi Gregorious, but the fact he missed his spot by 3 feet there was no chance of it was to be called a strike.

I realize that when you're batting, the strategy is usually to "take what the pitcher gives you" ... but as I said before the game, once the Yankees bullpen gets involved there is no further hope of scoring significant runs.
 
When the Twins realized Severino had nothing in the tank, they should have held that close to their chests and chipped at him slowly for a few innings with a grand finale outburst the 3rd time through the lineup. Yes, I realize this type of sneakiness is alien in baseball, at least to non-championship teams.
 
Few of us are surprised the Twins did not win, so there are no tears. Next year!
 
Also, it was nice to see a fairly called game by the umps this time around. The last time they did this was the worst called set of games I have ever seen as a baseball fan. Sure it was tilted to the Yanks, but they were getting atrocious calls as well.


The Twins SHOULDT have knocked Severino out in the first?

That was the mistake?
    • ashburyjohn likes this

 

When the Twins realized Severino had nothing in the tank, they should have held that close to their chests and chipped at him slowly for a few innings with a grand finale outburst the 3rd time through the lineup. Yes, I realize this type of sneakiness is alien in baseball, at least to non-championship teams.

 

xKc1-1.gif

Yes, I figured some of you would not be able to get your heads around this strategy. I'm not going to go down the rabbit hole as I know many would rather fight about it than try to understand game theory.

 

Yes, I figured some of you would not be able to get your heads around this strategy. I'm not going to go down the rabbit hole as I know many would rather fight about it than try to understand game theory.

 

Here, you dropped this: "/s"

 

Yes, I figured some of you would not be able to get your heads around this strategy. I'm not going to go down the rabbit hole as I know many would rather fight about it than try to understand game theory.

I should probably know better, but I'm actually a bit curious about this 'game theory' of which you speak.