Mets fans, the smart ones anyway, are alarmed about the swift turnaround in Johan Santana’s performance. As recently as May 27 he was 7-2 with an ERA of 1.77. Since then, he’s 2-5.
His ERA over his last 10 starts is over 5 runs per 9 innings, just about the worst 10-game stretch of his career — but a large chunk of that can be written off to the horrendous June 14 loss to the Yankees in which he was charged with 9 earned runs.
The real indicator of Santana’s decline is his strikeout-per-innings ratio:
Over his first 66 innings, Johan struck out 86 batters. That’s Sandy Koufax-Bob Gibson type performance. But over his last 43 innings, he’s struck out just 21, an eye-opening drop.
What’s going on? If you’ve been studying Santana, you’ll notice that more and more hitters are connecting with his once-devastating change-up. How can that be? “A change is a change,” Ron Darling told. “It shouldn’t become easier to hit the more batters see it. Hitters have been seeing that pitch for years and haven’t been able to connect with it. If they’re laying for the change-up, it’s because his fastball isn’t popping like it used to. That seems to be the reason he’s not getting the strikeouts he did before. There isn’t as big a difference between his fastball and change-up.”
Has Santana pitched too many innings? Is he starting to lose his arm strength? Has the overwork taken the pop off this fastball and thus made his change-up less effective? More on this as it develops…