On Wednesday, July 25, the Blue Jays will finish their short three-game series against the Minnesota Twins. Ervin Santana will climb the bump for the Twins and Sam Gaviglio will take the ball for the Blue Jays.
Wednesday’s game will mark the first start of Ervin Santana’s season in 2018. The thirty-five-year-old has been out since February when he underwent a procedure to remove Calcium deposits in his right middle finger. The righty was supposed to return earlier, but he experienced some setbacks in his recovery.
The procedure couldn’t have come at a worse time for the right-handed hurler. 2017 was a career year for the starter. In thirty-three starts he posted a 3.28 ERA and 135 ERA+. As a result of his strong numbers, he was named an All-Star and finished seventh in the American League Cy Young vote.
The veteran starter has made quite a few rehab stops on his road to recovery. Starting in high-A, he pitched three starts and managed a 3.48 ERA. In double-A, he made two starts and managed a 5.14 ERA. Finally, in triple-A, he made two starts and registered a 3.09 ERA.
Last season, as already mentioned, was a career year for the Twins hurler. Through 33 starts he posted a 3.28 ERA, 4.46 FIP, 1.126 WHIP, and 135 ERA+. However, since his FIP was so poor (which Fangraphs takes into account), he was worth just 2.9 fWAR.
Santana keeps his pitch selection quite simple, mixing between a four-seam fastball, slider, sinker, and change-up. However, much like Tuesday’s starter, while he offers four pitches, he is primarily fastball-slider.
Minnesota’s starter threw his four-seam fastball 39.42% of the time last season. The four-seamer was decently fast, posting an average velocity of 93.42 mph. However, the pitch did not fare that well, giving up a .480 SLGA and .234 ISOA.
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The two-time-all-star threw his slider 36.34% of the time last season. The slider maintains good movement, hanging in the zone until it drops off approaching the plate. Indicative of this great movement, batters produced whiffs on 38.96% of swings against the breaking ball. The slider produced by far the most strikeouts of all of his pitches, accounting for 96 of his 167 on the season.
Santana threw his sinker 13.51% of the time last season. The pitch was a little bit slower than the heater, managing an average velocity of 92.33 mph. The sinking fastball was not effective, though, coughing up a .333 BAA and .505 SLGA.
The right-handed hurler completed his offerings last season with a change-up—a pitch he used 10.7% of the time. The off-speed pitch was decently hard, maintaining an average velocity of 86.15 mph. As well, the change did not produce as many whiffs as most change-ups, racking up a whiff rate of just 21.69% of swings.
The righty’s surprising fWAR is indicative of the season that he had last season. While it was good, his FIP suggested that he was aided greatly by his defence. With two gold glove winners on his side that season—Brian Dozier and Byron Buxton—it is unsurprising that defence had an effect of about a run on his ERA. Buxton is an important name to highlight, as well, as the pitcher posted an extreme 42.5% fly ball rate last year.
Santana, especially in his older age, is not an overpowering pitcher. Thus it is unsurprising that he produced pedestrian strikeout numbers last season. Through the season he managed a 19.3% K-rate and 7.11 K/9. As well, much like his strikeout rate, his walk rate was just below average, putting together an 8.9% BB-rate and 3.09 BB/9.
The Blue Jays have not done that well against the veteran starter in the past. The best on the team, Curtis Granderson, has 13 hits—including two doubles and five home runs—in 54 at-bats. However, Yangervis Solarte has been dreadful, managing just one hit in 15 career at-bats.
The Blue Jays draw another tough match-up on Wednesday night. The match-up is tough on paper, given their past numbers and Santana’s year last year, but there is no guarantee that he will be the same all-star.