Johan Santana Must Be Hurt (Updated With Quotes)

This does not come from Mets sources, and it does not come from ballpark speculation, and it certainly does not come from the player himself, but barring an extraordinary breakdown in the mechanics of the game’s most-mechanically sound pitcher, Johan Santana must be pitching with an imposing injury.

This thought had been in the back of my mind since a fired-up Santana virtually willed the Mets to a victory in Boston, then followed that with a six-walk game against Washington on May 27, and finally his four-homer victory over the Phillies last week. Having now gotten to see Santana from field level during his implosion this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, there is not only the loss of velocity suggested by the radar guns, but he also seemed to have a softer break on his breaking stuff, and he clearly had trouble keeping the ball down. Many of the Yankees’ nine hits would have been swinging strikes on Santana pitches in the dirt, if he was 100 percent. Hideki Matsui’s homer might as well have been hit off a tee.
The one flaw in Santana’s makeup is the gung-ho attitude that has otherwise contributed mightily to the making of a superstar. If you will remember, he just missed single-handedly forcing the Mets into the playoffs last year with one of the great pitching performances in Mets’ history, his shutout of the Marlins on the next-to-last-day of the regular season.
That was on Saturday. On Wednesday, Santana was being operated on to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He had been pitching through its pain for the last month of the season. He had come back from a 125-pitch performance to mesmerize the Marlins, and had done so on three days’ rest.
And all that time, he had been pitching while hurt.
If he’s doing it again, the Mets’ 15-0 loss at Yankee Stadium will have been the least of their problems.
UPDATE, 5:00 PM EDT: Post-game, Santana insisted he has no arm problems nor any other injury (“no, not at all.”). See if you can spot the phrase that might make Mets’ fans doubt him:
“It was a bad day, worst of my career. I’m fine, it’s not excuses or anything, it’s just that today was a tough day.” Was his velocity down? “No, not at all. I made a few mistakes locating my pitches and if you are not able to locate the ball around the plate, that’s what’s going to happen.” No injuries at all? “I had some soreness in my back about a month ago. We battled through it. I had a split nail on my finger. We battled through it.” No lingering effects from either of those small problems? “No, I’m fine. We battled through it. Not a dead arm, not even close.”
AND THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE GOES TO:

Jose Veras of the Yankees and Mike Pelfrey of the Mets seem to have gotten in between Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Bruney, just in time. Bruney’s remarks about K-Rod’s not-entirely-deserved “L” on Friday had inspired the Met closer to confront Bruney in the outfield during batting practice. K-Rod was giving away at least three inches and at least forty pounds to Bruney… Top Observation from the Mets’ on the new ballpark in the Bronx comes from veteran Mets’ media relations guru Jay Horwitz. Asked what he thought of the place, Jay said, with a tone of mild surprise, “It looks a lot like the old Yankee Stadium.” Told that that was the point, Jay didn’t miss a beat. “Oh, well, then they did a really good job”… whatever comes of Santana, the Mets continued to struggle defensively. Luis Castillo dropped a skydiver:
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9 Comments

I’d be more willing to bet that JoJo was tipping his pitches, again, this afternoon. There was definitely a period in ’07 with the Twins where he was indicating to the batter what to expect. He’s never had great movement on his fastball, and there are plenty of outings he’s had where his changeup looks erratic and misses the strike zone by a ton. The Mets have a terrible history of masking injuries, particularly to their pitching staff, so this complicates things, but I’d still wager that this is just another headscratcher Santana outing. Back when he was with the Twins, just watching his delivery could tell you whether or not his changeup was working that day. I saw Santana pitch at least a dozen times at the Metrodome, a few from behind home plate, and there really are two different types of Santana on the mound — the one that cruises and the one that struggles with everything. I don’t think many people realize how many times he has won even though the struggling Santana is the guy on the mound. Call it luck, or just battling through it, but I’ve seen more of that Santana than the one that blows through the game like it’s nothing. There is one good indicator to see if he’s “on” that day, and that is how much he uses his slider throughout. When he’s “on,” he will locate his slider as good as his fastball and better than his changeup, and the batters have no chance. And he’ll continue to use it, at least 20-25 pitches will be that slider. If he’s not using it, it means he’s still trying to get his changeup working and he ends up digging himself into a hole. It’s just that he usually finds a way to get out of those holes. If he’s tipping his pitches again, look at the number of foul balls versus swings and misses. If the batters are getting considerably more fouled off pitches than whiffs, he’s probably tipping his pitches. Can’t get away with playing with all that fire against a team like the Yankees.

As an avid Mets’ fan, the game 3 loss of the mini Subway Series was beyond comprehension – 15 to zip? But I had in the back of my mind that something is ailing with Santana all along. And now I think that’s a definite. Yeah, everybody has a bad start now and then, but his previous two weren’t stellar. Then we got sporadic Perez is on the DL, not that I think he’s gonna bring the team to win the division, and now Maine – who along with Mike Pelfrey sometimes are a bit inconsistent, the starters are either injured or sporadic – or both. And with Santana messed up, well, see ya at the bottom with the Nats.
So, speaking of injuries, what about Pedro? Apparently he is healthy and pitching in the DR, isn’t he worth a look? He can’t possibly be much worse that what we’ve seen now if he’s healthy. And, maybe the Mets can negotiate a deal with him based on his health and ability to pitch – I don’t know what the legalities are that are involved.
I’d love to see Pedro back, and I can’t see how he could pitch much worse than the current starting pitchers – although Fernando Nieve was impressive even though he’s just up from the minors. But is he a flash in the pan?
The team’s gotta do something about the starters, and as much as I hope Santana isn’t injured, he must be hurt to give up nine runs – TO THE YANKEES -the most in his career.
Does anybody else think Pedro should be considered?

Hi Keith,
Liked the Castillo dropping the skydiver comment. Laughed out loud at that one.
If Johan is hurt as all signs indicate, then the Mets are in serious trouble. They needed to go out this summer and get a quality starter not Oliver Perez. They failed to do so. They also needed to get younger at 1st and 2nd base but failed to do so. They also needed another outfielder but failed to do so. As a fan it was so irritating to watch Orlando Hudson, Ibanez, Teixeira, and Lowe sign elsewhere. I am not saying that getting these four would have solved all the Mets problems but some of the current issues would have been moot. Johan’s problems would not be so devastating if they had another ace. Hopefully Minaya will get a clue and try to obtain a real starter and not someone on the waning end of a career or a third rate back end of the rotation kind of guy.
– Kathleen

You said it, Kathleen, you hit the very source of my own frustration. Throwing good money at tomato cans when what we’ve needed all along is to strengthen our bullpen and get some younger guys in the short field. I don’t think Minaya is even watching, the bum.

I agree, an ace shouldn’t pitch like that unless there’s something wrong with him. Like Jake Peavy. He didn’t have any really terrible outings, but you could tell he wasn’t really 100%, and now he’s on the DL with tendonitis.
http://kaybee.mlblogs.com

Off-topic: I don’t know if you saw the footage of the Stanley Cup making an appearance at PNC Park, but I thought it might interest you:

http://www.wpxi.com/video/19757163/index.html

Jan

Watch out for the Marlins, Herr Olbermann. The Florida Marlins are pretty much a lock now to win the division with the addition of Matt Holliday.

An injury is definitely one of the possiblities. With the way he pitched yesterday against the Yankees, it definitely looked like something was wrong. He wasn’t himself.
-Dillon
http://dillonm.mlblogs.com

Mr. Olbermann is just as insightful here as he is on his show. Johan Santana does not seem to be right and injuries seem to be the logical explanation. But, his location is also off. In his first few fantastic starts, he was constantly locating his fastball at the batter’s knees and his change-up was moving like a knuckleball in a hurricane. But, over the last five starts his velocity is down and his pitches have drifted upward in the zone. If it isn’t injury, what is it? Here are some possibilities: 1) His arm is truly tired. The winter-long rehab on his surgically repaired knee and the extended Spring Training due to the baseball classic may have taken some power out of his arm. Historically, he starts slowly and builds for the second half. But, his baseball body clock may be thrown for a loop. He started too strong and may have weakened early. 2) Is he trying too hard to carry a depleted team? He has been too demonstrative, too, shall I say it, macho. He has never been one to show anyone up, yet there he was waving the ball in Jerry Manuel’s face. He doth protest too much. 3) Is this the true Santana? During his last year in Minnesota, he gave up more than 30 home runs? He is back to that spot. It begs the question whether last year was the exception and this is the rule.

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