Is Santana Still The Ace We Traded For?

When Johan Santana was traded here I was extremely happy, he was supposed to be the best pitcher in the majors.  Santana was going to get the Mets a World Series title, the first World Series title since 1986.  Santana did not come cheap, it cost the Mets prospects that didn’t amount to much but financially the Mets gave him $137.5 million for 6 years.

Santana had a great 2008 for the Mets but thanks to the bullpen his amount of victories was limited.  There were some great pitching performances such as his complete game against the Cardinals after a 14 inning game the night before.  Then there was the game on the 23rd of September when he pitched a career high 125 pitches against the Chicago Cubs, a win the Mets needed to keep their playoff hopes alive.  The big game of Johan’s Met career came on the 27th of September.  The Mets absolutely needed this game, the bullpen was a mess, and Johan pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout against the Marlins, keeping the playoff hopes alive for the Mets.  It would later be revealed that Santana was playing hurt and needed knee surgery once the season ended.

Coming off of knee surgery there were big expectations for Johan Santana.  The first several months in 2009 were good months for Santana; he was probably the best pitcher in the National League at that point.  Unfortunately 2009 was the year of the injury for most of the Mets.  Santana like many Mets had to have surgery.  The surgery was to remove bone chips in his pitching elbow, thus ending his 2009 season.  This is the 2nd time in his career that he had to have this kind of surgery on his pitching elbow and it was the 2nd surgery he endured in 2 years.

Santana was a question mark coming into this year.  Everyone wondered how his elbow would hold up; would he still be the same pitcher he was a few years ago?  So far I have to say the answer is NO!  Johan’s velocity is down, he’s lucky to go above 90 right now.  His change up is ineffective to say the least right now.  He is throwing more pitches per inning this season and is lucky to go 6 innings per start.

This is not just a reaction to Sunday’s horrible performance.  This season Johan has been having trouble getting out of innings, his pitch count climbing to 40 pitches or more in the early innings.  Everyone talks about the 20 inning marathon against the Cardinals, how strong he was and how dominant he was.  Let’s not forget his pitch count was up there in the 2nd inning.  I know he was able to correct himself but that is still troubling.

Look at the game against the Washington Nationals last month at the pitchers park Citi Field.  He allowed 5 runs in 5 innings including a grand slam from Josh Willingham.  He has so far allowed 2 grand slams this year and it’s only May.  His control and location have been horrible this season, he walked Jamie Moyer on Sunday to drive in a run before giving up a monster shot.

I have to wonder is Johan the same Johan Santana we traded for?  Is he the ace we all need him to be?  Look at other aces in the majors such as C.C. Sabathia for the Yankees, Roy Halladay for the Phillies and Tim Lincecum for the Giants.  These guys are aces for their teams.  You know that when they start its lights out.  They are going to most likely win the game, if not keep their teams in the game.  I cannot say the same for Santana anymore.  I don’t have the confidence I used to knowing that Johan would be starting the game.  Those pitchers I mention go at least 7 innings per game.  A lot of the time they go the distance, giving their bullpen’s a little rest and they do not give up 10 or more runs when they have their “bad days.”

Perhaps the two surgeries on his elbow and the knee surgery have taken their toll on Santana.  Santana is getting older just like the rest of us.  He’s a great pitcher but he’s not a machine.  I know this is not popular but maybe Santana can no longer be the pitcher he used to be.  Santana might not be our ace and we have to prepare for that.  I hope I’m wrong and Santana will become the Santana of old and help guide this team to a championship.  Only time will tell.