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Article: Ervin Santana Is Legit

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 07:21 PM

Maybe it's the team's history with free agents. Perhaps it is the perpetual up-and-down pattern of his career. Or maybe it's just a well justified skepticism about the sustainability of any good starting pitcher wearing a Minnesota Twins uniform.

Whatever the reasons, people have had a hard time buying into Ervin Santana as a legitimate front-line starter. But at this point, it's an inescapable conclusion.Throughout his entire career, Santana has been a very streaky pitcher, so in a sense we should not go crazy over his incredible start to the 2017 season. But then again, this is the form he showed for most of 2016. The veteran right-hander is (hopefully) heading into a fifth straight season of sustained health and quality production.

The improved results over this extensive stretch owe to more than just another hot streak. Since adding a new pitch to his repertoire, Santana has been a different player. A much better one, who shows signs of entrenching himself as a true No. 1 starter on a staff that desperately needs one to stick.

In 2012, Santana allowed a league-leading 39 home runs in just 178 innings while scuffling through his final year with the Angels, in which he posted a career-worst ERA+ of 74. Perhaps it was this that inspired him to add a two-seam fastball – more colloquially known as a sinker – to his mix the following year.

As you can see in the image below via Brooks Baseball, a new gray datapoint line starts appearing in 2013. This is when he started using the sinker, or at least in a way that caused it to register as such. The offering has been a noticeable difference-maker for him.

Download attachment: Brooksbaseball-Chart.jpeg

Santana has always been pretty good at limiting base-runners, evidenced by a 1.28 career WHIP. But in his down years, home runs have haunted, punishing him for the occasional walk or base hit. He's now in Year 5 since altering his arsenal, and there's been a distinct change.

Through 2012, Santana had allowed homers at a 3.2 percent rate, with a 4.33 ERA. Since then, 2.5 percent with a 3.39 ERA. It's only a piece of the puzzle, but the bottom line is that Santana has been a really good pitcher for quite a while now. He has basically neutralized his one weakness – the long ball – and after making that adjustment hasn't really had a bad season.

Since 2013, only 18 pitchers have thrown more innings with a better ERA, and they're all really damn good (surrounding Santana on the list are Jordan Zimmermann and Dallas Keuchel).

Now, this isn't to say that Erv is ace material, or the guy you ideally want in Game 1 of a postseason series. He's just an extremely reliable above-average starter – a commodity that's been in short supply around these parts. And at the price the Twins are paying ($13.5 million this year and next, with a $14 million option in 2019) he's a real bargain.

Naturally, this raises questions about how things might shape up at the trade deadline. Should the rest of the league become convinced of his value (and if he keeps pitching well for three more months, why would they doubt it?), Santana could bring back a decent haul. That's another asset for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine – already gifted the No. 1 overall draft pick and highest waiver priority – to keep in their pockets. Certainly a favorable inheritance for a new front office focused on building from the ground up.

Of course, right now, selling is not the mindset. The Twins are 7-5, and in second place. While the thrill of actually being relevant may be fleeting, it may not. Either way, we'll all ride it as long as we can, especially with Santana keeping the good times rolling each fifth day.

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#2 sorney


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Posted 16 April 2017 - 07:42 PM

Erv is super awesome.  I would love to keep him as long as possible.  But the Twins should ABSOLUTELY trade him at the deadline if they are not in it.

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#3 Joe A. Preusser

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 08:13 PM

Only if they are below .500 and the return is awesome. Hindsight is 20-20, but I think we are 8-4, maybe 9-3 with a good bench bat instead of that 13th pitcher. Hope they get it right, either way. Would be nice to bank as many wins as possible.
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#4 TheLeviathan


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Posted 16 April 2017 - 08:21 PM

Keep it up Ervin.  It'll make for a fun end of July!

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#5 Oldgoat_MN


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Posted 16 April 2017 - 08:41 PM

Actually I really like the guy and would hate to lose him. He seems very positive and a nice, stable presence for the younger pitchers.

Yeah, and I like Dozier, too. Trade 'em if you can get a good return.

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#6 KirbyDome89


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Posted 16 April 2017 - 08:46 PM

Mark me down as cautiously optimistic. I have much more confidence that Ervin will have a good year  than this team will. Although, that isn't exactly high praise. Hopefully he keeps it up until the deadline and the Twins pull the trigger. If I'm buying his 2017 start as a continuation of last season's success and not a streak then I'm going to need to see some games against teams that aren't KC or the Chi Sox, but so far so good.  

#7 Kwak


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Posted 16 April 2017 - 08:52 PM

The Twins (finally) get a reliable starter, and at a good price, and the trade flag is waived?  That will send a message to everyone--but not a welcome message!  I actually think that the Twins pick up his option year. In fact after his option year is used, Santana might be offered another year if all goes well.

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#8 Bickle19



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Posted 16 April 2017 - 09:05 PM


The Twins (finally) get a reliable starter, and at a good price, and the trade flag is waived?  That will send a message to everyone--but not a welcome message!  I actually think that the Twins pick up his option year. In fact after his option year is used, Santana might be offered another year if all goes well.

Just keep in mind that at that point he will be 36 years old. 

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#9 D.C Twins

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 09:13 PM

Trade IF you get a good return.... I like that the new FO is willing to be flexible and patient (and showing the league). Patience early will help them to extract fair to better value in the years to come

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#10 D.C Twins

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 09:21 PM

Garver is also too legit....too legit to sit (around waiting to be called up)....sorry off thread but I couldn't resist

#11 DocBauer


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Posted 16 April 2017 - 09:37 PM

During today's broadcast, a stat was shown that Santana leads the league in ERA since, I believe, July 6th of last season. That and his overall performance last season and his start this season is very interesting to me.

It tells me, #1, the Twins were smart to hold on to him. #2, it tells me the rest of the league, particularly those teams who could make a serious run but might need another SP, are either not paying attention, OR, were lowballing the Twins with offers. (Sound familiar?)

It also, IMO, despite being a bit of a stretch, indicates something I've argued about for some time now in regard to prospects and roster construction in general. You just never know who will become a top, front line SO, despite "expert" evaluation.

Again, I'm stretching the Santana argument a bit, but not that much really. I've seen countless, sure-fire future ACE pitchers flame out, as well as "solid" guys turn out to become front line #1 guys. And I suppose we could spend hours of posts and threads discussing such, but my point is, I always find it blindly interesting how the Twins seemingly have NO top of the rotation arms in their system, when we just simply don't know what the next 1-3 years will produce.

And I realize we are talking about a solid, established, veteran pitcher vs prospects, but the comparison remains valid. Just look at the Cubs and Indians for examples. You draft, you sign, and you try to put the best coaches and instructors in place, but you still can't always predict where or when the next great pitcher will emerge in your system.
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#12 HitInAPinch


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Posted 17 April 2017 - 02:15 AM

So, when did we stop calling a sinker a sinker?  James Shields has been well known for his sinker.  Not one single time did Dick or Bert say sinker.  


ARGH!  The namby pamby world we live in  ;-) 


ahem, that being said......


Right now, Ervin is good for this pitching staff:  a calm, steady and successful veteran in a sea of veteran misfits and young hopefuls.

It's not my fault !

#13 whosafraidofluigirussolo



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Posted 17 April 2017 - 06:58 AM

As of this morning (4/17), Santana's start on 4/15 leads the majors in Game Score, with 92. The next 3 are tied at 86 - interestingly (though not surprisingly, given the small sample of games) all from this past weekend.



#14 Vanimal46


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Posted 17 April 2017 - 07:30 AM

This July could be pretty exciting if it shapes out the way we want it to. If they're truly contending, it would be nice to trade a prospect or 2 for immediate help... If they're out of it, they have 2 solid trade pieces to dangle.
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#15 mikelink45


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Posted 17 April 2017 - 07:43 AM

The argument over ACE is getting tiring.  He is our Ace and it is good to have him there.  He has done all we could ask of an ACE, but trade him?  Yes.  Take a look at this 2012 article on pitcher regression:  http://www.fangraphs...-and-relievers/Age does matter and it matters where he has a half year off for drug rest or not.  Age just happens and the body breaks down.  Move him at his peak and we will be better off.  Only a few freaks like Nolan Ryan and Warren Spahn keep pitching well into their 40's.

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#16 Parker Hageman

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Posted 17 April 2017 - 08:14 AM

In 2012, Santana allowed a league-leading 39 home runs in just 178 innings while scuffling through his final year with the Angels, in which he posted a career-worst ERA+ of 74. Perhaps it was this that inspired him to add a two-seam fastball – more colloquially known as a sinker – to his mix the following year.



I'm not sure if it is a glitch in the Pitch F/X calculation or not (it's been known to happen) but Santana was supposedly throwing a two-seamer dating back to 2010 (http://www.espn.com/...tory?id=5007541). Sometimes these pitches aren't captured by the pitch recognition formulas. Then again, maybe he never threw it much during game action or didn't have the same type of movement he does now.


Overall, Fangraphs charts Santana as throwing fewer than 30 two-seamers each season over the last two years, which is surprising. 


Another note for his rebound includes improving his mechanics and changing his changeup grip from a split-change to a four-fingered grip: http://twinsdaily.co...n-santana-r3252

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"

#17 Doomtints


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Posted 17 April 2017 - 08:14 AM

What's surprising is that this is surprising. Most pitchers who had no hitters are "legit." Most pitchers who stick around as long as Santana has are "legit." Most pitchers who juice are "legit."


To me, this proves that a lot of Twins fans get stuck looking at stats that are less relevant. When I looked at Santana I always saw a rising star, provided he remained healthy. 


So while many of you looked at FIP and claimed Nolasco was a great pick up, I looked at other things and predicted Santana was a great pick up (and called Nolasco a stupid move from the get-go).


Ya'll gotta look deeper at these things.

Edited by Doomtints, 17 April 2017 - 08:16 AM.

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#18 gil4


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Posted 17 April 2017 - 08:54 AM


 Most pitchers who juice are "legit."

I take it you remembered Juan Rincon and changed your mind on this one?

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#19 Mike Sixel

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Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:15 AM

they should 100% be trading him at the deadline unless they are in a playoff team at the time, even then, I'd consider it. This team is not a playoff team. 


As the Yankees showed us last year, and as TX has stated in interviews, and as the Cubs and Astros showed us, you have to be willing to trade veterans to build for the future. 

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#20 d-mac


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Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:26 AM

Let's revisit this when his .074 BABIP and 4.8% HR/FB rate normalize. 

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