Fantasy Focus: Meet the Mets – Johan Santana

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.