A short and not very sweet analysis tonight, just like today’s game. Here’s what Gameday showed Santana throwing against the Rangers today:
I get three pitches in there, although I’m not 100% positive there’s not a fourth hidden away. Top is clearly the fastball, thrown at 90-94 (which proves the problems with accurate analysis of Gameday data, because in his start last week in Seattle, it got him at 93-96. The calibration is still not there, either that or there are more significant differences between ballparks than I thought or ever read about). Below, in red, from 80-85, is the changeup. And those few little green dots to the left are the slider.
At least, that’s what I think. First of all, the green pitch, only four of them is suspicious, but that’s what the charts show, I could not differentiate any others to match those. By comparison, he threw about 15 of them in Seattle last week. But the red pitch, at first I decided it was one pitch, then two, then back to one, then a different two, and finally I settled on one. In his start in Seattle, there were the clear green pitches in the same place as today, 85-90 mph, horizontal from -1 to 3, and vertical from 2-5. We see those today, but very few of them. In Seattle, the red pitches were 81-86, horizontal 4-8, vertical 5-10. Today the red is 80-85, horizontals from 5-12 and verticals from 5-11. There was one cluster in Seattle. Today it almost looks like two, with some dark red horizontals on the left and others on the right. None of the charts have clear separations though, none of the values appear enough different to make them two pitches. But there might be. I just don’t know.
Either way, everyone was talking about his fastball and his changeup today, nothing else. But when you’re throwing with a vertical above 10, as most of his fastballs were, you’re more likely to be in trouble with the long ball. Nope. When your other pitch is all over the place, you’re more likely to be in trouble with control. Nope. When your release point is so varied (I didn’t show it, but it looked like something my two year old could have drawn), you’re more likely to be in trouble with the ball going every which way. Nope.
You see, whatever mojo he had going today, he had it going on good. He absolutely dominated the Rangers like no-one has since, well, since August 6, when the Rangers struck out 21 times (in 13 innings). Or since Santana himself did back in May, or Buehrle did no-hitting the Rangers in April. To be sure, this was pretty darn close to being a no-hitter itself, if not for Sosa’s two hits the Rangers would have been done in again (incidentally, I asked once before if a team had been no-hit twice in a season, and I looked it up and it’s actually happened a number of times).
Santana’s line against Texas this season: 15 innings, 6 hits, 1 run (earned), walked 2, struck out 30. 215 pitches, 150 strikes (which is a hair under 70%, although the first start was 65% and today was 74%, which is absolutely dominant). First time through he had a Game Score of 76, an excellent score, today it was 95, which is an all-time great performance. Santana has two Cy Youngs, and although he’s probably going to have to go on a tear to get another this year (if he could drag the Twins into the playoffs he’d deserve it), today he certainly pitched like what he is, the best pitcher in the game today.
Michael Young was made to look foolish as he struck out four times. During the last at-bat of the game, I said to myself “watch this, they’re going to pitch him low and away and he’s going to strike out”, and what happened? Two swinging strikes low and away, including the one to end the game. Mikey wasn’t even close to either of them. And you know what’s worse? It wasn’t even Santana throwing them, it was Joe Nathan. Okay, he’s good, but it just proves the gameplan against Michael Young: pitch him low and away, and he’ll flail wildly.
I should mention yesterday’s game, which the Rangers won 5-0, because of the return of Kam Loe. Not sure how much he could throw, and he did look shaky at times, especially as he threw five walks in five innings. He never looked great, he hardly looked good, but he got through his innings and the bullpen did the rest. Again they looked shaky too, allowing a lot of baserunners, but some good fielding got us home. There really is almost an end-of-term feeling about this team now, there’s not many players who are definite write-ins for next year, but the ones who have come up to try out aren’t even looking that interested in playing. The feeling is one of inertia, or maybe ennui is a better word, just playing out the string. In a curious decision the Rangers may be sending Loe to the bullpen for the rest of the year, with the idea that they want to see more of Rheinecker. I can tell you I’ve seen enough of him already to know that he’s a #4 starter at best. Edinson Volquez is due to start this week, after his minor league plan went well this year, and I’d much rather see him than Rheinecker. The scary part is that TR Sullivan today talked about potential free agents, saying the top two were Livan Hernandez and Carlos Silva. If the Rangers are bringing in guys like that, they’re pretty much waving the white flag as soon as they sign them. They’re throwing away good money, getting poor or useless returns, and wasting time which could be used looking at guys we already have. Kind of like what they should have done with Rheinecker about two years ago, and what they need to do with Volquez now. They’re too good at letting guys rot in the minors for too long, spending a lot of money on poor stop-gaps, as they try and execute their one-year plans to win. Hasn’t worked for eight years, why do they think it will start now?