Santos’ Breakout

If you’ve ever listened to a broadcast when a struggling power pitcher is on the mound, you’ve inevitably heard the sermon on why good stuff isn’t enough to succeed in the big leagues, but that you have to know how to pitch, which only comes through years of experience and learning.

Sergio Santos would beg to differ. The former shortstop, drafted in the first round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2002, gave up on hitting last year after an eight year minor league career. The White Sox turned him into a relief pitcher, hoping that his strong arm would translate into success on the mound, but it was a rough transition to say the least. He threw 28 2/3 innings, gave up 37 hits, walked 20, struck out 30, and posted an 8.16 ERA. The velocity was there, but the results were not.

It was just the first year of the experiment, however. He came to camp showing significantly better command and, mostly because he was out of options, made the White Sox bullpen. His performance to date has been nothing short of shocking.

His season line, including today’s performance: 14 1/3 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 7 BB, 18 K.

This is a guy who entered the year with less than 30 professional innings under his belt. He was nothing short of terrible in his first exposure to pitching, and yet, here he is in the big leagues, blowing hitters away.

He’s mixing three pitches – a mid 90s fastball, a hard biting slider, and a surprisingly good change-up. He’s been good against both left-handed and right-handed hitters. He’s throwing strikes, getting ahead in counts, and forcing hitters to chase nasty breaking balls in the dirt.

Yes, it’s 14 innings, but so far, Sergio Santos is out-pitching almost every big name reliever in baseball. It’s a testament to how much improvement he made in spring training, the skills of White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, and, truthfully, how very easy it is to be a relief pitcher if you have a good arm. And Sergio Santos has a very, very good arm.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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BaconSlayer09
Member
6 years 1 month ago

The guy was put in some big situations too and ended up succeeding for the most part.

Even when he didn’t have his command today, he got out of a bases loaded jam by getting Cabrera to hit a ball right at Andruw Jones.

He’s a potential closer, he sure has the stuff to do it and so far, he looks to be mentally capable.

I’d like nothing more than him to replace Bobby Jenks.

joser
Guest
joser
6 years 1 month ago

Everybody’s been trying to do away with Jenks for years and he just keeps coming back like some kind of bad zombie movie.

airlifting
Member
airlifting
6 years 1 month ago

this isn’t allowed, dave….you hate the white sox.

brendan
Guest
brendan
6 years 1 month ago

hope the giants can find similar value in tony pena jr

larry
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

he didn’t make the team mostly because he was out of options. that may have been the talk early in spring training but it was fairly obvious by the end of spring training that he earned it. there certainly isn’t another reliever in the minors who was better than him.

realitypolice
Guest
realitypolice
6 years 1 month ago

Congrats on the ridiculous hyperbole in the penultimate sentence, Dave! Yes, “how very easy it is to be a relief pitcher if you have”:
Kyle Farnsworth’s
Radhames Liz’s
Joel Zumaya’s
Seth McClung’s
Daniel Cabrera’s
(Or to pull a few other converted position guys, Warner Madrigal’s or Jose Arredondo’s)
arm!

You can say it’s *easier* if you have a great arm. But really, name a field where it isn’t easier to have more success with better underlying skills.

Peterfox
Guest
Peterfox
6 years 1 month ago

Get a grip, man.

PG
Guest
PG
5 years 8 months ago

I actually think he makes a valid point. If you think it’s “easy” to be a reliever just because you have a good arm you’re delirious. That’s simply a ridiculous comment to make. Incredibly ignorant.

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