Santana the Younger Signs

Reports are leaking out that Ervin Santana, heading into his first arbitration hearing, and the Angels have agreed to a four-year contract with a team option on a fifth year. If the length is right, that buys out Santana’s three arbitration years plus his first free agent year with the option covering a second. Santana recently turned 26 so that contract would cover his 26-29 seasons with the option year being his 30th. That’s a nice age to lock up a pitcher.

Moving to the dollar figures, the numbers being reported is a guaranteed $30 million with the option being for another $12 million or so. Given the 40/60/80% breakdown on arbitration rewards, this comes out to 2.8 market years or 3.8 with the option. Either way, it breaks down to the Angels paying Santana at the 2.5-win level, give or take a little.

Santana certainly had a wide volatility in his performance in the past two seasons, moving from a low 4 FIP previously to one well over 5 in 2007 and then down in the low 3s this past year. From 2005 through 2007, Santana was throwing fewer strikes and missing fewer bats each subsequent year until his complete transformation in 2008 which also saw him post a career high groundball rate.

The question is going to be if that’s sustainable. If so, then Santana is legitimately one of the best pitchers in the American League and worth around five wins a year, giving the Angels a tremendous value. If he regresses all the way back to 2007, he’s only worth about one win. CHONE and Marcel have remarkably similar projections, both suggesting that he’s going to return to his 2006 performance level; a level worth about 3.5 wins.

It looks like in all but the worst case scenario, the Angels make out well here with an upside of this becoming one of the most team-friendly contracts on the books. No doubt, fantastic move for Anaheim.




Print This Post



Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

26 Responses to “Santana the Younger Signs”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Halo says:

    How about instead of going with silly computer projections and Marcel (Marcel will undervalue Santana, no matter what, given his performance before 2008), we evaluate Santana properly? Last year was legit. You can’t go with a computer projection system that uses 3-year samples and has limitations, especially when it comes to a pitcher who just had a legitimate breakout season (a monster year). Santana was not good before 2008.

    Santana’s average fastball velocity increased from 92.2 to 94.4 (2nd highest in the AL). He had the 5th highest swinging strike % in the AL. He throws strikes. He also had the 3rd best tRA* in the AL. Santana was legitimately an elite pitcher.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • EnglishMariner says:

      Perhaps because this is how we always evaluate players here? We can’t use projection systems for some an insight like “he throws strikes” for others. That’s not how Fangraphs works. Projection systems aren’t perfect, but no one claims that they are.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Halo says:

        But you have to in special circumstances, like when someone has a breakout season. You can’t just use Marcel in this case. That would be pointless. Marcel is useless in this case and the CHONE projection cannot be applied. It will take another season, maybe even two, before the CHONE projection changes for Santana. We’re talking about a pitcher who had a complete transformation after a mediocre career. One great year cannot only be used while the rest get disregarded. That is not how these computer projection systems work. It can’t account for breakout performance.

        Those who evaluate Santana properly (individually) see that he had a legit breakout year. There is absolutely NO reason to expect any kind of regression. There is nothing to suggest he won’t continue to be an elite pitcher.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • bootsocks says:

        No reason to expect regression? Okay…

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Halo says:

        Nope. There is no reason. Santana was 100% legit last year. I invite you to try and find a reason why he might regress this year. Post it if you think you have one.

        Unless you come up with something like, “but but, he sucked in 2007!” Which is not a valid reason in this case. :) Judge his 2008 season.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • EnglishMariner says:

        Sigh … well for one thing he posted a career high in innings pitched last year and also had two complete games as well as six 120+ pitch games, which placed an unknown stress level on his arm. Couple this with the 10% rise in sliders usage on 2007 which places a great strain on the elbow and you will forgive me if I am sceptical that there is no chance for regression.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Bikozu says:

        You can’t look at 2008 in a vacuum. The fact is that he did play other seasons and he wasn’t as good in those seasons.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • bootsocks says:

        I’m just saying that when a 26 year old pitcher drops his xFIP from the 5.00 level to 3.64, even with an accompanying increase in velocity and O-Swing%, it might be prudent to at the very least entertain the possibility that a little regression might be coming his way.

        Who’s to say the velocity increase is even real? Pitchers have lost significant velocity at much younger ages than Santana (paging Scott Olsen) so there’s certainly precedent for that. Only time will tell. For the record, I’m not stating that it’s not real. I just don’t want you to be disappointed in the very possible event that Santana hasn’t turned the corner as sharply as you had hoped.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Halo says:

        Injuries….that can happen to anyone.

        I’m talking about statistical data. Find something that is a red flag. Find me something in his performance last season that suggests he might regress.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Halo says:

        There are no true statistical reasons that he should not keep performing at his 2008 level. Santana had a legitimate breakout season. This is not the same Santana from 2007 and before.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • bootsocks says:

        Find me something in his performance last season that suggests he WON’T regress.

        You’re the one making the unequivocal claim. It’s your job to prove it right, not our job to prove it wrong.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        Santana is still a fly ball pitcher. His GB% in 2008 was only about 2% higher than his previous career marks. His FB% was only about 4% lower than it had been before. The main reasons that he was able to maintain a lower FB rate was that he was able to induce IFFB nearly 15% of the time. That was the 4th highest in the league last year, and about 5% higher than it has ever been in his career before. That should go back towards his career average next year. That would lead to more OF flyballs which would lead to more home runs.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Halo says:

        As a FB pitcher, it is only natural to induce more IFFB. His career IFFB% is 11.5%. His IFFB% in 08 was the same as 05. Even IF it drops to around 11%, what exactly will we get? A really small drop.

        I’m going to compare 2006 to 2008 (he pitched over 200+ innings). In 2006, his IFFB was 9.5%. In 2008, it was 14.4%.

        In 2006, had 26 total IFFB. In 2008, he had 37 total IFFB. That’s only a difference of 11 over a season.

        Let’s say (using his career IFFB%) he gets around 30 this year. That’s 7 less than last year.

        What are we looking at to replace those 7 IFFB (if he gets less IFFB this year?) Maybe 2 extra strikeouts, 4 extra flyballs and 1 extra grounder (speculating here)?

        How would 4 extra flyballs = lead to more HRs, as you put it?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Milendriel says:

        You said it yourself, Halo: “One great year cannot only be used while the rest get disregarded.” I couldn’t agree more. I mean, Brady Anderson hit 50 homers one year. Did that “breakout” make him a perennial 40+ homer guy? Nope.

        I also don’t understand why you’re arguing. Matthew already addressed the possibility that Santana’s improvement is sustainable. The point was, even if it’s not, the Angels still got a great deal.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • draysbag says:

        I also don’t get this argument. Matthew never said Santana’s performance isn’t sustainable.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • bootsocks says:

        Mil, I think he meant that projection systems aren’t able to discern true breakout seasons; in the event of such, they can’t just use the breakout year and disregard the rest. From his first post:

        “You can’t go with a computer projection system that uses 3-year samples and has limitations, especially when it comes to a pitcher who just had a legitimate breakout season.”

        That’s the one thing I’m sure we can all agree on. As for the legitimacy of the breakout? We’ll see.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • draysbags says:

        Perhaps you misread this article, Halo? Seriously, you make great points, but why you’re arguing remains a mystery because nobody said Santana’s performance isn’t sustainable.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Ralph says:

    Great move by Anaheim. Santana is for real.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. EnglishMariner says:

    I’M SICK OF YOUR BIAS MATTHEW.

    I am also sick of the Angels getting some nice contracts for their pitchers. Let’s hope they aren’t as successful when it comes to resigning Lackey.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Teej says:

    You can lie to yourself all you want. You’re not fooling anyone who reads your posts at LL. You’re biased. You hate the Angels. You find positives when the M’s make bad moves, while you never try to find a positive when the Angels make a questionable move. Why is that?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. samuel samson says:

    Teej, did you actually read this article? He’s saying Santana could pitch as well as last year, that progressions agree he’s more likely to regress a bit but that except for a worst case scenario – where Santana goes back to his extreme home/away splits – that this is a sweet deal for the Angels. He uses the word ‘fantastic’ in fact. How is any of this negative or biased against the Angels? You’re tripping.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • MPC says:

      i think teej was making fun of the guy that harasses carruth constantly.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Teej says:

        Yeah, I was playing around, because just a day earlier Matthew was accused of having a vendetta against the Angels that prevents him from ever acknowledging a single positive thing about the franchise.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. JI says:

    You bias knows no bounds Carruth.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Joey Brick says:

    I hear Matthew is Rae Carruth’s cousin so I’m not surprised he has no scruples.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. james simmons says:

    great article. could you tell me if the projections for james are updated at all during the spring or do they stay the same from the first post
    thanks
    james

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *