Just who is Ervin Santana on the mound, really?
After making his first start for the Kansas City Royals, the team is still asking themselves that very question. It’s not that they didn’t get a good look at the new No. 2 pitcher of their revamped starting rotation, though — in fact, they got a pretty good look at the both of them.
On the one hand, there was the Santana that would have reminded most of the 6.0 fWAR pitcher that the Los Angeles Angels got in 2008: that one was excellent on the mound on Wednesday for the Royals, allowing just five hits and a walk through six innings, while striking out eight.
But then there’s the other guy — the one that the Angels couldn’t wait to get rid of, and the one who fed 89 mph fastballs right down the middle to Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers, and later another one up and in to Dayan Viciedo.
That Santana gave up four runs on three homers, which happened to be the difference in a 5-2 loss for Kansas City.
So what does the team take away from an outing like this? Well, if you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person, you could say that Santana is picking up basically right where he left off; he is, after all, coming off a career-worst -1.0 fWAR season with a disparate 5.16/1.27 ERA/WHIP, thanks mostly to a career-high 1.97 HR/9.
A good guess at his profile in 2012 would have suggested that his 18.9 percent HR/FB rate would come down closer to his career rate of 10.8 percent, but … that’s been thrown out the window, at least for this game.
If you happen to be an optimist, though, you see that the same pitcher was also pretty hard to hit when isn’t giving up bombs. As long as Santana can get his strikeout rate up and walks down as he did today, he might have himself a pretty good rebound season for the pitching-needy Royals … well, assuming he won’t give up a couple of homers a game, anyway.
The Royals got both sides on Wednesday, and will have to wait several days more to see if the enigma on the mound that is Santana will clear up.