The Kansas City Royals have been busy early this offseason, making moves to try and bolster their starting rotation. Their biggest move to date was trading minor league lefty Brandon Sisk to the Los Angeles Angels for right-handed veteran Ervin Santana. But which Santana will they get for 2013?
Santana was a trainwreck in 2012 for the Angels. He lost his first six starts of the season with an early ERA that ballooned to 6.16 by the end of April. He would get his ERA back down under five for a four-start stretch in May before shooting back up in June. He would lower his ERA on the season below 5.00 just twice the rest of the way, finishing the season with a 5.16 ERA on the season.
The hardest part about watching Santana this season was his inconsistency. In the first month of the season, he had as many home runs as walks (10). On the season, he had three months of terrible to horrendous ERAs (6.16 in April, 5.85 in June, 12.21 in July), and three months of respectable marks under 4.00. He failed to pitch at least six inning in 10 of his 30 starts, with three outings where he couldn’t make it out of the third.
He posted back-to-back sub-4.00 ERA’s to close out the season in August and September, but by then the damage was done. He finished the year just 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA and saw his average fastball dip below 92 miles per hour.
But coming into 2012, Santana was expected to be one of the four horsemen of an unhittable Angels’ rotation. That’s because up until last season, Santana has been a solid to excellent starting pitcher.
Over the last five seasons, Santana has been a work horse, starting more than 30 games four times. From 2008 to 2011, Santana pitched multiple complete games, including four in both 2010 and 2011 (he had just one complete game in 2012). He has posted double-digit wins and sub-3.50 ERAs in three of the last five seasons and had never given up more than 27 home runs in a season before this year (he gave up 39 in 2012).
So was this season the outlier or the beginning of a downward trend for the right-handed Santana? He set career-highs for runs allowed, earned runs allowed and home runs while posting his worst WAR ever (-1.5). He has never posted back-to-back negative WARs in his career and should come back down closer to his career averages next season.
He will need to adjust to his loss in velocity, which made him much more prone to allowing the long ball this season. His four-seam fastball, which used to be hitting 93 mph regularly, dipped down a BP fastball at 89-90 mph and Santana was shelled for it. 60-percent of his home runs allowed this season came off that flat four-seamer.
He still has a better than average slider that is a swing-and-miss pitch, but he’ll need to improve his control issues he suffered in 2012. He’ll need to avoid leaving the slider hanging up in the zone, as well as start throwing his change-up for strikes, while adjusting his approach against hitters which a new pitching coach could help.
If the wheels haven’t completely fallen off for Santana, he should bounce back to have a respectable season in 2013. He should be the Royals opening-day starter next year, which speaks more to the dire situation of the Royals rotation than Santana’s bounce-back ability.
He’s better than what the Royals have, but he’ll need to be better than he was in 2012 to turn his stop in Kansas City into a lucrative deal next winter when his contract is up.