Johan Santana has not missed a start. Johan Santana has taken the ball every fifth day through the first two months of the 2012 season. If Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson, and the rest of New York Mets management heard those two statements over the winter, you know they would have been elated. All they wanted was for their ace to be able to take the field when it was his turn in the rotation, and that’s exactly what he’s done. His record is only 1-2, but has given the Mets seven quality starts. For me, just his presence on the field and in the dugout helps this ball club.
In his nine starts so far in 2012, Santana has only been able to reach the 7th inning once, which was in his only win, coming against Justin Upton and the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, we sometimes forget that he missed all of 2011 due to injury; despite his solid performances, Johan has mentioned that he’s still in the process of getting himself comfortable on the mound and getting control of his pitches consistently:
“I’ve been getting better and feeling better every time I’m out there. We still have some way to go, and I’ve just got to continue improving and getting better and getting a feeling for it. I still feel that I have some work to do with my command, especially with my fastball.”
Each game that he goes out on the mound is another step forward to getting back to the pitcher that led the NL in innings pitched
(234.1) and ERA (2.53) in 2008 with the Amazins. That transformation won’t happen over night, but we’ve seen remarkable progress from start to start. After his first three starts (ATL, WSH, ATL), Santana hasn’t pitched less than six innings in his last six starts, and before his 6.1 inning, 4-run performance against the Pirates on Monday, he hadn’t given up more than three runs in a game.
So, it’s clear that Johan has given the Mets a chance to win in virtually every game he’s been run out onto the mound, and for him to starting putting wins on the board under his name, it’s just a matter of continuing to increase his endurance to go deeper into games. Either way, Santana’s record is not indicative of his impact to the Mets this year. When he was out all last season with injury, his presence in the clubhouse and personality as a competitor was sorely missed. I compare his influence to the influence that Pedro Martinez had on the Mets when he arrived in Flushing in 2005. When he took the mound, the rest of the team ran out behind him in confidence that they were going to get a win that day. The same thing happens when Santana jogs out every fifth day.
When he takes the mound, he exudes confidence that New York will come away victorious when the last out is recorded. Even though he’s not able to go as deep into games as he’d like to at this point, he’s been going deep enough where the bullpen should be rewarding him for his effort. In today’s game, anytime a pitcher can get into the seventh inning with either a lead or an opportunity to win a game, managers will take that every time. It’s just a matter of time before Johan starts to get those wins, but he is unfazed because the team has continued to be successful, and he knows he will eventually see results, he just needs to be patient.