The last time we saw Big Erv take the mound this year, it wasn't pretty. He was an erratic mess at Yankee Stadium in the AL Wild Card Game, instantly coughing up Minnesota's first-inning lead and exiting after two frames.
But the Twins never would have reached that unexpected point without Santana's steady work atop the rotation all summer. Not a chance. He was far-and-away the team's most valuable and effective pitcher. Only Jose Berrios came close, and while he earned every second-place vote in our ballots, the much-improved young righty was a very distant second by any measure.
Santana's 3.28 ERA was not only the best in the rotation this year, edging Berrios by more than half a run, but the best mark by a qualifying Twins starter since Johan's 2.77 in 2006.
On a staff that desperately needed innings from starters to protect an iffy bullpen, Santana threw 211 innings – most since Carl Pavano's 222 in 2011, and 50 more than 2017 runner-up Kyle Gibson.
Santana's five complete games and three shutouts both led baseball – in fact, only one team (Cleveland) had more complete games and none had more shutouts.
Santana's WHIP (1.13) and BAA (.225) were the lowest of his career, and both ranked fifth among AL starters. He posted his best walk rate since 2008, finishing on a strong note with just four walks over 35 innings in September.
It was a masterful age-34 season for Santana, who has proven to be a resoundingly successful free agent signing, perhaps the best in franchise history. Defying the conventional effects of age, Erv has only gotten better as his contract has progressed and he's entered his mid-30s. As long as he can continue to stay healthy while commanding his solid fastball and excellent slider, he should be ready to bring it again next year.
Hopefully a young starter like Berrios or Adalberto Mejia – or a newcomer acquired this offseason – will be able to give Santana a run for his money in this category, however.
Here's a look at the ballots from each of our nine voters. There was zero disagreement over the top two choices, and Twins Daily's Rookie of the Year winner was very well represented despite throwing only 42 innings.
Seth Stohs: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Trevor Hildenberger, 4) Taylor Rogers
Nick Nelson: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Trevor Hildenberger, 4) Kyle Gibson
Parker Hageman: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Bartolo Colon, 4) Brandon Kintzler
John Bonnes: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Brandon Kintzler, 4) Trevor Hildenberger
Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Brandon Kintzler
Cody Christie: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Brandon Kintzler, 4) Taylor Rogers
Steve Lien: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Trevor Hildenberger, 4) Brandon Kintzler
Tom Froemming: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Adalberto Mejia, 4) Kyle Gibson
Ted Schwerzler: 1) Ervin Santana, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Trevor Hildenberger, 4) Matt Belisle
Ervin Santana: 36
Jose Berrios: 27
Trevor Hildenberger: 9
Brandon Kintzler: 7
Taylor Rogers: 4
Kyle Gibson: 2
Bartolo Colon: 2
Adalberto Mejia: 2
Matt Belisle: 1
Do you agree with our committee's pick? Who would be your choice for Best Twins Pitcher and why?
2017 TWINS DAILY AWARDS
2017 Most Improved: Byron Buxton
2017 Rookie of the Year: Trevor Hildenberger
2017 Pitcher of the Year: Ervin Santana
2017 Most Valuable Player: Thursday