Fantasy Focus: Meet the Mets – Johan Santana

An article by posted on June 4, 2009

Let’s kick off the first of our Fantasy Focus columns with some discussion of our beloved Mets.  We’ll take an in depth look at their fantasy performance – which refers specifically to the following categories found in a ‘typical’ fantasy baseball league – Batting Average, Runs, HR, RBI, SB for hitters and Wins, Saves, ERA, WHIP, and K’s for pitchers.

Then we’ll look a little beyond the numbers and I’ll give you my highly unsabermetric (and probably inaccurate) conclusions and projections for their future performance.  Sound like fun?  Let’s get started:

The Stud

Johan Santana – 72 IP, 7 Wins, 2.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 89 SO

Quite simply from a fantasy perspective (and just about any other) – Johan Santana has been the best starting pitcher in the National League.  Arizona’s Danny Haren is a close second – but doesn’t match the SO’s and has received similarly poor run support translating to only 4 wins.

I posted about Johan earlier this season in my blog.

But let’s take another look.  First off – Johan has maintained his incredible dominance rate – striking out 11.1 per 9 innings – the highest rate of his career since he first broke through in 2002.  Only Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander sport higher K rates in 2009.

In addition to blowing it by hitters – we can look at his G/L/F rates (Ground Ball/Line Drive/Fly Ball) to see the type of contact hitters are getting.  Santana currently sits at 33.3/17.5/49.2 for a G/F rate of 0.68.  Typically we like to see a positive number for a pitchers G/F rate like that of Mike Pelfrey (1.74).  However Santana’s always been a fly ball pitcher – even though he induced alot more GBs in 2008 (1.13 G/F) – throughout his career he typically has given up more FB than GBs.  Looking a bit closer we can find that of those FBs – 23.3% of them have been Infield Fly Balls or pop ups – and his HR/F rate is 6.7% – one of the lowest rates of his career.  So it’s pretty safe to conclude that though hitters are getting air under the ball – they aren’t getting the wood to go with it.

Finally I could go through some of his modified pitch selection but there is a couple of good article that discusses this here at The Baseball Analysts – Johan Santana’s Pitch Selection from Pitch F/X.

Basically it boils down to Santana going more to his 2 best pitches – the 4 seam fastball and change – and throwing less sliders and cutters – which are effective pitches – but he seems to be using them more for show and sticking with what he does best – mixing pinpoint locations with speed change via his consistent, deceptive delivery and release point.

All signs point to continued dominance – though I might speculate that some of those elbow issues early this Spring might be a teensy factor in his modified pitch selection…  But I don’t even want to go there…

It’s reasonable to expect Johan to continue what looks to be a career year.  If we can get him some further run support (he currently sits at 3.63 runs in support a game – one of the lowest in baseball).

The Pirates approach Tuesday night – swinging aggressively early in the count and putting the ball in play – was a good one.  Especially with our depleted and mismatched defense.  But not a tactic that will be successful in the long run against a veteran pitcher like Santana.

Pitch F/X stats courtesy of FanGraphs.

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