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Johan Santana Digs A Good Pennant Chase

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I know you've already read the headline so you know the answer, but pretend you didn't.

Suppose I told you a pitcher in his last three years has a record of 54-18, an ERA of 2.74, averages over a strikeout per inning, and that his hits and walks combined have never surpassed his inning or strikeout count in any of those years. Who would we be talking about?

Why, he would be the ace of the Minnesota Twins, Johan Santana.

This year the 27-year-old lefthander is 18-5 with a 2.75 ERA. He's a god-among-men 10-0 at home and a less-impressive-but-still-better-than-me 7-5 on the road. On a Twins pitching staff that carried on without phenom Francisco Liriano since late July — as well as veteran Brad Radke battling nagging injuries — Santana took a rotation running out of gas, got out of the car, and began pushing.

Johan Santana is 18-5 this year. Santana won the Cy Young in 2004, although he should have won it last year and ought to be a lock for it this year. Oddly enough, he's only made one All-Star game, which was last year (Correction: This is a bald-faced lie). That means he wasn't even an All-Star the year he won the Cy Young, nor did he make the squad this year (although Liriano barely made the cut as an alternate).

While this sadly looks like a lack of respect, it makes perfect sense since his best numbers don't emerge until after the All-Star Game. Look at his first half numbers since 2004:

2004: 7-6, 3.78 ERA
2005: 7-5, 3.98 ERA
2006: 9-5, 2.93 ERA

He made the All-Star team in '05 likely due to the respect of being the incumbent Cy Young winner, but those numbers are all fairly consistent.

Now let's gander at his numbers from mid-July through September:

2004: 13-0, 1.21 ERA
2005: 9-2, 1.59 ERA
2006: 8-0, 2.63 ERA (with half a month left to go)

Twice is a coincidence, but three times is a pattern. If the man has so much as a sub-4.00 ERA and a winning record going into July, he ought to make the All-Star team until his arm can no longer bend.

This is a guy who the Houston Astros let the Florida Marlins snatch him up in the 1999 Rule V Draft. Worse, later that day the Marlins traded him to the Twins for Jared Camp, a pitcher who never left the minor leagues.

Back on August 3 the Twins were just two games behind the Chicago White Sox and three behind Boston/New York for the Wild Card. Today they own the Wild Card lead by 1 1/2 games, but scarier still they trail those division leading Detroit Tigers by another 1 1/2 games.

If the Twins can surpass the Tigers, Johan Santana is hands down this year's American League Cy Young winner. And also the MVP.

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  • Nora

    Um, Santana not only made the All Star roster but pitched a shutout inning. Where were you?